Emily Gray

Alec McCowen, stage actor and Bond’s ‘other Q’, dies at 91

Alec McCowen, stage actor and Bond’s ‘other Q’, dies at 91

Alec McCowen in Never Say Never AgainImage copyright
Warner Bros/Rex/Shutterstock

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McCowen played Algy, aka Q, in Never Say Never Again

British actor Alec McCowen, who played gadget inventor Q opposite Sir Sean Connery in “rogue Bond” film Never Say Never Again, has died at the age of 91.

His death was announced in a tweet by talent agency Conway van Gelder Grant.

Born in 1925, the Rada-trained actor performed with the RSC and starred in the first production of Equus in 1973 .

The National Theatre also marked his passing on Twitter, calling him “one of the most highly-regarded actors of his generation”.

Image copyright
@NationalTheatre

Other notable stage roles included the Fool alongside Paul Scofield in Peter Brook’s 1962 production of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

He also travelled the world with a one-man performance of St Mark’s Gospel and played a detective in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy.

To many, though, he will be best remembered for his brief appearance as Q – here nicknamed Algy – in 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

“Now you’re on this, I hope we’re going to have some gratuitous sex and violence!” he was seen telling Connery’s James Bond in the “unofficial” remake of 1965’s Thunderball.

The character Q has also been most recently played by Ben Whishaw, as well as Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese.

McCowen, who was made an OBE in 1972 and a CBE in 1986, is survived by his sister Jean, two nephews and two nieces.

His partner, the actor Geoffrey Burridge, died in 1987.


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Youth radio in decline nationally, figures suggest

Youth radio in decline nationally, figures suggest

Rickie Williams, Charlie Hedges and Melvin OdoomImage copyright
Bauer Media

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Rickie Williams, Charlie Hedges and Melvin Odoom co-host Kiss FM’s breakfast show

Most UK radio stations aimed at a young audience have seen their listeners fall, Rajar figures suggest.

Radio 1’s audience fell by 3.2% in the last three months of 2016 compared with the previous quarter, while Radio 1Xtra fell 11.4% over the same period.

Capital saw its listenership drop by 3.1%, while the Kiss network saw its share fall by 3.5%,

Yet Kiss still has reason to be happy, as its breakfast show is now London’s most popular commercial breakfast show.

The audience research body’s figures also show Radio 4’s Today programme recorded its highest ever audience.

The BBC station’s flagship show went from 7 million weekly listeners in the last quarter of 2015 to 7.4 million in the last three months of 2016.

“In an era of fake news, echo chambers and significant shifts in global politics, the role of Radio 4’s Today as the trusted guide to the world around us is more important than ever,” said Bob Shennan, director of BBC radio and music.

Radio 3’s breakfast show also did well, with an audience of 647,000 in the last quarter of 2016 signalling a 20% rise on the same period in 2015.


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Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul is retiring to spend time with her family

Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul is retiring to spend time with her family

Aretha Franklin

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The star’s biggest albums include Lady Soul and I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You

Soul legend Aretha Franklin says she plans to retire from music to spend more time with her grandchildren.

The 74-year-old said she would record one final album with Stevie Wonder before stepping out of the limelight.

“I must tell you, I am retiring this year,” the Queen Of Soul told a Detroit TV station, adding that she felt “exuberant” about her plans.

One of the most distinctive voices in popular music, she is known for hits including Respect and Dr Feelgood.

Among her career highlights are:

  • More than 20 number one singles in the US
  • First woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • Won the Grammy for best R&B vocal performance for eight consecutive years from 1968 to 1975
  • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W Bush in 2005

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Franklin is also an accomplished pianist

Franklin has been performing since she was 19, but has been suffering from ill health in recent years.

In 2010, she had to put her career on hold following abdominal surgery and has since slowed down her once-prolific tour schedule.

Looking back on her success, the star said: “I feel very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from and where it is now”.

There is a caveat to her retirement plans: The singer said she would remain open to “some select things, many one a month, for six months out of the year”.

“I’ll be pretty much satisfied, but I’m not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing,” she added. “That wouldn’t be good either.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

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The star has suffered from ill health in recent years

Born in Memphis to a famous Baptist preacher, Franklin was tutored from an early age by gospel stars like Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward.

She struggled to find fame in the early years, with record label Columbia unsure how to frame her impressively powerful voice.

A move to Atlantic Records in 1966 turned things around. Producer Jerry Wexler paired her with the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who prompted some of her most soulful, fiery performances.

By 1968, she was renowned throughout America and Europe as “Lady Soul” – a symbol of black pride, who was presented an award by Martin Luther King, and appeared on the cover of Time.

Although she faltered in the era of disco, an appearance in cult comedy The Blues Brothers brought her back into the public eye and she scored a number of big hits in the 1980s, including Who’s Zooming Who? and the George Michael duet, I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).

She has continued to record and perform since, and two years ago, the star reduced President Obama to tears when she performed (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the Kennedy Center Honours ceremony.

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