Blog: 'For more than one generation of music-mad kids, Tony Fenton was one of the key voices'
The death of Tony Fenton, at the horribly young age of 53, is genuinely shocking. Not just because he was known to all his peers as one of nature’s true gentlemen (and trust me, when you work in media, those are rare enough).
But Tony was one of those broadcasters who, in a sense, outgrew the mundane fact of their job and become part of the fabric of Irish life. That voice, for starters – once described as a “Rolls Royce of a voice” – was instantly recognisable, always delivered with his customary enthusiasm, good cheer and sense of fun.
I still remember, more than two decades on, his trademark cry of “You’re the winner!” on 2FM’s evening show The Hotline. After a stint with the pirates, Tony had presented that programme for 18 years before moving on to pastures new at Today FM, where he co-hosted the afternoon show with Louise Duffy.
As radio reviewer for the Irish Independent, I probably didn’t cover Tony’s show once. That was no reflection on him: pop music radio isn’t really “reviewable” in that way.
But he was a constant, welcome presence in mine, and the nation’s, audio landscape. Indeed, Tony had probably reached that exalted state – also shared by old colleagues such as Larry Gogan, Dave Fanning and the late Gerry Ryan – of “national treasure”.
His courage and resilience, during five years of battling cancer, won Tony many new admirers. He was open and honest in interviews about his disease, and man enough to admit when it got him down.
When he was inducted into the PPI Radio Awards Hall of Fame last year, he said that hearing the news “really made my day – because that day I was feeling a bit low”.
Unsurprisingly, the tributes to Tony have been pouring in to social media all day. Fellow DJ Jim-Jim Nugent said, “Very sad news…a real radio legend.” 2FM broadcaster Rick O'Shea wrote, “When I came to RTE Tony Fenton was welcoming, encouraging and such a nice guy to me. My sincerest condolences to his family, loved ones.” The list goes on and on.
Pop stars Kodaline perhaps summed it up best when they called Tony “a true legend and the voice of our childhood”.
For more than one generation of music-mad kids, his was one of the key voices. And what a voice.