Murray Walker, a commentator who at times was even more popular than his sport, celebrates his 90th birthday today. To mark the occasion, James Allen headed down to see his former ITV F1 colleague to share some memories and discuss what made him the special broadcaster that he was.
“I don’t feel 90,” Walker told the October edition of the JA on F1 podcast. “I think if you’ve got a passion in life, and for me it’s motorsport, it something to keep you going. I feel fine and I’m looking forward to a lot more years of motorsport.”
Check out this TV interview I did with him on BBC Sport Website.Murray Walker at 90
Part of the magic of Walker’s appeal lies in his voice, which goes up and down with the sound of a Formula 1 engine. “My voice is my father’s voice,” he said. “You have the voice that you are born with and develop into and my father had a voice just like mine.
“My voice wouldn’t have been any good for snooker – I’ve got a harsh aggressive voice. When I get excited and I talk about motor racing, it gets a lot faster and a lot more aggressive. Formula 1 is a fast moving sport and I’ve got a fast moving aggressive voice, which suits the sport. I’ve had people talk to me in normal conversation and say you don’t always sounds like you sound in the commentary and that’s because I get so excited and it changes.”
You can hear more Murray Walker in full voice in the October edition of the JA on F1 podcast. It also features interviews with Caterham owner Tony Fernandes, four-time world champion Alain Prost and FIA presidential candidate David Ward.
No player? Download the podcast directly.
Another element is his passion for motor racing, which is reflected in the voice. He’s as passionate as he was when he sat on his father Graham’s motorbike all those years ago.
“My father was professional racing motorcyclist and who won the TT on the Isle of Man, he won all the continental grands prix in those days and he would have been world champion in 1928 if they had a world championship the same as they do now,” he said. “I was born into the sport. I think you either like what your father does or loath what your father does.
“I adored my father, he was a wonderful man and I wanted to be like him. When I came out of the army, I started racing bikes and I was alright, I was good club standard but I was never going to be able to make good living as my father did.
“I was in the advertising business and starting to do well in that and chose to go that way. I often wondered what my life would have been like. If my father had been a plumber, I’d probably be mending pipes somewhere.”
Walker has always had a determination to succeed in whatever he turns his hand to, whether it be advertising or commentary. “I have never been one of those people who sets targets like I’ve got be a millionaire by the time I’m 21 or visit every country in the world by the time I’m 32 – that sort of thing,” he said. “I have tried my best to take advantage of any opportunities that came to me. I suppose I have been pretty realistic about what I can do and what I can’t do.”
Walker adds that his love of people and ability to get on with everyone helped him enormously in his career. “I like people,” he said. “I treat people as human beings. You may be the head of a corporation or a truckie who is responsible for getting the cars to the races.
“They’re very different jobs, with different levels of income, but there is no reason why if you’re a truckie you shouldn’t be as nice as a top man in business. I like to treat people as I find them and I hope they treat me as they find me. You get a lot more out of life if you enjoy being with people.”
When asked for any drivers which he had a soft-spot for during his career, Walker selected three. “Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss and Nigel Mansell. I have a very close friendship with Nigel. He’s not the easiest bloke in the world to get on with but Nigel and I always got on very well. I always admired him for stoutheartedness.
“Fangio was a humble man from Argentina. I had the privilege of interviewing him on three separate occasions. And then there’s Stirling Moss, one of greatest all time. He never won the world championship but he finished second five times. To me it’s a criticism of the championship, not of Stirling, that he never won it.”