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Tom Hibbert dies

By | Published on Friday 2 September 2011

Tom Hibbert

Popular music journalist and former Observer columnist Tom Hibbert has died from complications brought on by diabetes. He was 59.

Hibbert dropped out of a course at Leeds University in the early 1970s to pursue his ambitions in rock music and journalism. The former didn’t go so well, despite stints in various bands, but he did manage to find some employment in the latter domain, albeit for home-improvement magazines. In 1980, he was able to combine his two passions when Felix Dennis launched a new title called New Music News, capitalising on the fact strikes were hindering the publication of both NME and Melody Maker. Hibbert wrote reviews for the short-lived title and his refreshingly sarcastic writing style got noticed.

Though it was as a pop interviewer for subsequent employer Smash Hits that Hibbert came to most music fans’ attention, managing, as he did, to turn in entertaining copy whoever his subject might be, even with the tedious ones. This was the hey-day of the pop magazine, and Hibbert’s writing was part of that success, so much so when, in 1987, a certain Margaret Thatcher asked to be interviewed by the pop mag ahead of that year’s General Election, it was Hibbert sent to chat with the PM. She revealed that she admired Cliff Richard and her favourite song was ‘(How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window?’, perfect material for Hibbert.

In 1986, he moved to a new title then being set up by Smash Hits publisher EMAP, Q magazine. There a special column was created geared towards Hibbert’s writing style and interview approach, ‘Who The Hell…’, and he spent many years travelling the world to interview all sorts of celebrities from the music world and beyond, meeting with and writing about TV stars, business leaders, comedians and politicians along the way. A column in The Observer followed in the mid-1990s.

The journalism career came to a premature end in 1997, however, when Hibbert fell ill. Although he survived a bout of pneumonia and acute pancreatitis, despite three months in intensive care, he never fully recovered, and subsequently retired from his media work, much missed by the many readers of his work in the music community and far beyond.

He is survived by his wife Allyce.