Death of a Legend

Paul O'Neill Trans Siberian Orchestra

Allow me a minute to be a bit shallow/dramatic will you?

I didn't get it when people mourned Prince, or Bowie or George Michael.  They obviously weren't my people, and their deaths had no effect on me.  

And then.

I was on the T to work, and something popped up on my Facebook feed.  There's a girl that I'm friends with, because of an odd connection where I used to live/date/go to school with her cousin so we kind of know each other, and she happens to be a singer in one of my favorite musical groups: The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. 

Her status chilled me - she was reporting that the founder of TSO had passed away.  Paul O'Neill.  The person who started producing for Aerosmith before moving on to Savatage where he wrote "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" which everyone else knows as TSO's Carol of the Bells (after he re-released it on a TSO album he wrote around it).  A song so powerful, the band plays it twice during their concerts.  

Paul O'Neill.  The man responsible for putting together TSO's touring show, which has played to over 100 million people, and donating more than $11 million to charity.  He set the tone from early on that giving back, and keeping the shows accessible and affordable to their fans was more important than getting rich.

His music tells a story.  You can listen to a song independently, but the beauty comes when the entire album is played in its entirety, and the story is read along with it.  Each album comes with a story book, and each concert has a narrator to tell the story between songs.  The stories are beautiful, political, and moving.  

The song I walked down the aisle to at our wedding I picked because it is sampled in a TSO song.  

I read through her Facebook post and my heart stopped, and suddenly I was crying on the T.  Maybe it's because I'm pregnant, or maybe it's because anyone who knows me knows how much their music means to me, or maybe it's because I once met him at a concert.  More like during a concert.  He tends to hide out in the background.  For as flashy as TSO is, Paul O'Neill was not.  He rarely made an appearance on stage, even when they would stop the show at intermission to introduce everyone.  They would give him a shout-out and everyone would clap, but he would remain hidden somewhere back stage, or most often back at the sound board.  But one year I happened to have outside aisle seats, and I saw him walking towards me.  I didn't know what to do, and didn't want the moment to slip me by, so I stuck out my concert program at him.  He stopped, signed it, and motioned to someone behind him who appeared out of nowhere and handed me a free concert T shirt.  And then he was gone.  Back into the shadows.  

I started to think about everyone I've brought to their concerts over the years.  Because I needed them to experience it in person, to understand what it means to breathe in a TSO performance.

Paul. Nicole. Stephen. Becca. Joe. My mom. My dad. Tom. Raina. Zaida. Miles.  


I've traveled to 3 states to see them.  I've taken buses, trains, begged rides from friends.  Every year.  The question is never whether I'll go or not, but who I'll bring, which venue I want to see them in, and if I'd rather the day or night show.  I've dreamt of bringing our children to their shows.  

I guess the point is, I get it now.  Music is a powerful tool, and easily becomes part of our identity.  And this week I'm mourning a little piece of mine.