What happened to Len Goodman? Tributes to Strictly Come Dancing legend after his death, aged 78

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Len Goodman was the head judge on the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing for more than 10 years

Strictly Come Dancing legend Len Goodman has died aged 78, his agent has confirmed. The former star of the BBC One show became head judge in 2004 and his final Strictly appearance was on the 2016 Christmas Day special.

He died on Saturday (22 April) at a hospice in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, surrounded by his family. The dancer and choreographer, originally from London, had been diagnosed with bone cancer. In a statement, his agent Jackie Gill said: “It is with great sadness to announce that Len Goodman has passed away peacefully, aged 78. A much loved husband, father and grandfather who will be sorely missed by family, friends and all who knew him.”

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Goodman began dancing at the age of 19 after his doctor recommended it as therapy for a foot injury. After turning professional he went on to win various competitions, including the British Championships in Blackpool in his late 20s, after which he retired to become a professional judge and teacher. He was also the recipient of the Carl Alan Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to dance.

Joining Strictly Come Dancing

He was part of the Strictly judges lineup from its inception in 2004, appearing on the panel alongside Arlene Phillips, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood. In July 2016, Goodman announced he would be leaving the show at the end of that year’s series and made his last appearance on the show for the Christmas Day Special. He was replaced as head judge on the BBC show by Shirley Ballas in May 2017.

Goodman also served as head judge on the US version of the show Dancing With The Stars for more than 15 years until announcing his retirement in November last year. At the time he said he wanted to “spend more time with my grandchildren and family” back in the UK. He was just six months into his retirement at the time of death and had been due to celebrate his 79th birthday on 25 April.

As well as his successful dancing and television career, he also owned the Goodman Academy, a dance school in Dartford, Kent, and was a a music enthusiast, and regularly stood in for the late Paul O’Grady when the entertainer was away from his BBC Radio 2 show.

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Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli during the final dress rehearsal for the opening of the ‘Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour’ (Photo: PA)Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli during the final dress rehearsal for the opening of the ‘Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour’ (Photo: PA)
Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli during the final dress rehearsal for the opening of the ‘Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour’ (Photo: PA) | PA

Tributes to Len Goodman

BBC director-general Tim Davie paid tribute to Goodman following his death, saying he will be “hugely missed”. He said: “Len Goodman was a wonderful, warm entertainer who was adored by millions. He appealed to all ages and felt like a member of everyone’s family. Len was at the very heart of Strictly’s success. He will be hugely missed by the public and his many friends and family.”

Former BBC presenter Dan Walker, who competed on Strictly Come Dancing in 2021 and a friend of Goodman, also paid tribute. In a tweet he wrote: “So sad to hear about the death of Len Goodman. He was an incredible man & an extraordinary talent. Loved making telly with him, being daft with him, playing golf with him & will never forget the little tips he would send every week on Strictly. All my love to his family.”

Giovanni Pernice, a professional dancer on Strictly, also paid tribute to the star, sharing a picture to his Instagram Stories and writing: “RIP legend [sad face emoji].”

Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood described Goodman as a “gorgeous colleague and dear friend” in response to his death. He tweeted: “I’ve just woken up to the sad news that my gorgeous colleague and dear friend Len Goodman has passed away.

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“My heart and love go out to his lovely Sue and family. Len Goody Goodman is what I always called him and ‘It’s a ten from Len & seveeeeern’ will live with me forever. RIP Len”.

Strictly presenter Claudia Winkleman said Goodman was “full of twinkle, warmth and wit”. She tweeted, “I’m so sad about Len. He was one of a kind, a brilliant and kind man. Full of twinkle, warmth and wit. Sending all love to his family and friends. X”.

TV presenter Susanna Reid described Goodman as “a beautiful man” after the former Strictly judge’s death. She wrote on Twitter: “Oh this is such an awful shock and so sad. Len was an absolute legend & the definition of a proper gent. He was a beautiful man with a huge sense of humour who had such a mischievous turn of phrase. I’ll never forget ‘all bounce, bum & bongos’. My love to his family”.

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