British talk show host legend Michael Parkinson has died at the age of 88, the BBC said on Thursday. He interviewed some of the world’s biggest stars, including Muhammad Ali, Elton John, Madonna and Helen Mirren, on his long-running chat show.
“After a brief illness Sir Michael Parkinson passed away peacefully at home last night in the company of his family,” the BBC quoted a family statement as saying. “The family request that they are given privacy and time to grieve.”
The first Parkinson show launched on BBC television in 1971 with U.S. jazz singer Marion Montgomery becoming his first guest. After an 11-year run, Parkinson and his show returned to the U.K. public broadcaster in 1998. According to the BBC, the popular host once estimated that he had interviewed more than 2,000 guests.
“Michael was the king of the chat show and he defined the format for all the presenters and shows that followed,” BBC director general Tim Davie said about Parkinson. “He interviewed the biggest stars of the 20th century and did so in a way that enthralled the public.”
Concluded Davie: “Michael was not only brilliant at asking questions, he was also a wonderful listener. Michael was truly one of a kind, an incredible broadcaster and journalist who will be hugely missed.”
Born in 1935 in Cudworth, South Yorkshire in England, Parkinson was also known for his love of cricket.
After two years in the British army, Parkinson became a journalist, first for the Manchester Guardian and then for the Daily Express in London. He later moved into television as a current affairs host and reporter for TV company Granada and the BBC before eventually being made a talk show host.