Melvin Lindsey, the suave and popular local radio personality best known as the voice of "The Quiet Storm" and "Melvin's Melodies" music shows, died yesterday of complications of AIDS.
A spokeswoman for Sibley Memorial Hospital said Lindsey died "peacefully and surrounded by family and close friends" at the hospital. He was 36.
Lindsey, who was born and reared in Washington, talked about his illness last week in an interview with The Washington Post. The illness had whittled Lindsey's 6-foot frame to 140 pounds.
In his final broadcast on Sunday night, Lindsey took phone calls from his hospital bed from listeners of WHUR-FM, the Howard University radio station where he started his career.
"Since that was where he started, that was where he wanted to end it," said Cathy Hughes, owner of radio station WOL and a close friend of Lindsey's who helped him get started in the business. "It was the closing of a circle."
Lindsey was one of the best-known and best-liked radio personalities in the Washington area. Starting in the early 1970s, Lindsey was host of "The Quiet Storm" at WHUR, then he took the show, under the name "Melvin's Melodies," to WKYS-FM. The show featured romantic, sometimes moody music from such singers as Smokey Robinson, Sarah Vaughan, Ashford & Simpson, Barry White, Stevie Wonder and one of Lindsey's favorites, Diana Ross. When he began at WHUR, Lindsey was being paid $12,000 a year. By the time he left in 1985, he was receiving a six-figure salary.
The format gained widespread popularity and was emulated at radio stations throughout the country.
Radio stations that had "Quiet Storm"-type programs in New York and Philadelphia had on-air tributes to Lindsey yesterday, said Dyana Williams, a longtime friend of Lindsey's who is president of a group that produces African American music events internationally.
The "Storm" approach "inspired a radio format throughout the United States," Williams said.
After nine years at WHUR, where he had more than 220,000 listeners each night, Lindsey moved to WKYS, where he stayed for five years. More recently, Lindsey had been host of a show business news program for Black Entertainment Television and did a weekend shift for WPGC-FM. He stopped working about a month ago, as his health deteriorated.
Lindsey learned he was infected with the AIDS virus in 1990. Initially, Lindsey said, he wanted to keep his condition a secret.
He told The Post a week ago that he thought he might be able to help others affected by the AIDS epidemic.
"I am getting more and more faith, and I can't pinpoint what is making my faith grow," Lindsey said recently. "Maybe it is the love and people around me. I know I am not afraid to die. I know there have been so many wonderful people who have died before me. If there is this eternal life, I will be glad to be with them."
In the recent interview, Lindsey also discussed his homosexual lifestyle.
Hughes said Lindsey had been struggling with whether to speak publicly about his condition because he wanted to shield his family from any pain that revelations about his private life might cause.
"I think if he died with any regret, it was that he didn't go public sooner in an effort to be of assistance to others suffering with AIDS," Hughes said.
A benefit on Lindsey's behalf is scheduled for April 30 at the Sheraton Washington Hotel, with proceeds going to fight AIDS, said Amy Goldson, Lindsey's lawyer.
Hughes attributed Lindsey's popularity to his "magnetic charisma that was irresistible."
That charisma was manifested last night on WKYS, which broadcast a tribute to Lindsey that ended with Diana Ross's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Host Donnie Simpson read a letter of condolence from D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly.
Lindsey was reared in the Petworth area of Northwest Washington and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and Howard University, where he met Hughes in the early 1970s and began working at WHUR.
Initially, Lindsey did not believe his career would be in radio, Hughes said. "He reminded me on a regular basis he was just doing this until we could get somebody else to do it," she said, adding that Lindsey aspired to become a lawyer.
Lindsey is survived by his parents, William Thomas Lindsey and Florence Coles Lindsey; three sisters; two brothers; and several nieces and nephews.
Special correspondent Jeffrey Yorke contributed to this report.