LIMA/LONDON - Veteran British radio disc jockey John Peel died of a heart attack on holiday in Peru, his employer the British Broadcasting Corporation said on Tuesday.
The BBC in London said Peel was on a working holiday in the ancient Inca city of Cuzco with his wife Sheila when he died.
"John Peel was a broadcasting legend. I am deeply saddened by his death," said Andy Parfitt, controller of the BBC's flagship pop music station Radio One.
"John's influence has towered over the development of popular music for nearly four decades and his contribution to modern music and music culture is immeasurable. He will be hugely missed."
An embassy official in Lima confirmed Peel's death.
"We received a phone call at 4 a.m. from his brother to inform us," he told Reuters.
Peel, 65, was one of Britain's original pirate radio disc jockeys in the 1960s, broadcasting from ships anchored just outside British waters on shows that won huge followings.
In the late 1970s, he championed punk rock to the consternation of many of his radio contemporaries who were still playing disco and rock supergroups - and were convinced the new music fad would never catch on.
Peel, who had a trademark blunt style, Liverpool accent and gravelly voice, was an authority on independent music and won an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his work.
He was one of the original DJs on Radio One when it started in 1967. His six-week contract ended up lasting four decades.
Apart from regularly topping music paper Best DJ polls, Peel won the 1993 Sony Award for Broadcaster of the Year and in 1994 was named Godlike Genius by the influential British music magazine NME.
In recent years he became well-known to new audiences as the presenter of Home Truths for Radio Four.
BBC Director of Radio and Music Jenny Abramsky described Peel as unique. "He had a remarkable rapport with all his listeners. Everyone at BBC radio is devastated by the news," she said. "John is simply irreplaceable."