Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tryin' to Live My Life Without You

When I was growing up, I wasn't very popular.  As I recall, I was the only girl in the senior class at my high school who was not asked to the Senior Prom. I had no boyfriend, but truth be told, I didn't have many friends of either gender. It was not a very tolerant era, and since I was SO different from what a girl of that time was supposed to be, it meant that I spent a lot of time by myself. I had a crush on a guy who lived a couple of streets away from me, but he didn't know (or care) that I existed; and not knowing any other guys I could ask to be my date, I stayed home.  Looking back on it now, I probably didn't miss much, plus I saved a lot of money by not having to buy a fancy dress. But at the time, I felt like an outsider.  Only my love of rock and roll, and my favorite deejays, helped get me through it.

In college, I found my home at WNEU, the campus radio station; but being a few years ahead of the curve meant I was not welcome yet-- the station did not want (or allow) female deejays. It took me till my senior year to finally get on the air, and to be a radio station music director for the first time. I loved being a deejay (playing people's favorite songs and cheering them up the way the deejays had cheered me up a few years earlier). But I found that I loved music directing almost as much-- I had the opportunity to listen to all the new songs, and help to decide what the station would play.

Through music directing, I came in contact with record company promoters, and made some friends that I still have to this day. This was also the first time I encountered promoters from Canada; they sent me what were then called "imports," in case we wanted to play them.  And throughout my radio career, no matter where I worked, I continued to be a music director, and I continued to maintain a good relationship with a number of Canadian record promoters, who introduced me to a lot of interesting new music.  Most of it never became popular in the States, but every now and then, a band broke through, and I was gratified to know I had helped to make that happen.

In addition to feeling a sense of pride in helping to "get the ball rolling" for Rush back in 1974, one of the added bonuses for me was all the new friends I met as a result.  First and foremost, I became friends with the guys in the band (and even when they became famous, they never forgot what I did for them early in their career).  I also became friends with their management.  But then came lots of live concert performances, and I began to meet the fans. No matter what city I was in (and I saw Rush play in so many places), the fans always welcomed me.  We all shared something in common: we loved a band that the critics generally hated; and we recognized how talented these three guys were when the critics did not. 

For more than four decades, I knew that wherever Rush was playing, I would not only be welcomed by the band if I wanted to go backstage, but I would also be welcomed by the fans who came to see them. The fans seemed to recognize me:  they would wave, or call my name, or hug me, or in the internet era, they would "friend" me on Facebook.  Sometimes, at an event or at a concert, I would see someone with a sign that said "Thank you, Donna Halper." It meant a lot to me.

Sometimes, fans would ask me to speak at a Rush-themed convention, or teach a class about Rush's music; or they wanted to take a "selfie" with me if they saw me somewhere.  I'd like to believe that some of these folks might have wanted to be friends with me with or without Rush; but there's no denying that our devotion to Rush is what brought us together and kept us in contact with each other over the years.

And then it all changed.  After R40, Neil decided to retire; Alex and Geddy, loyal to the end, were not about to create a new version of Rush without him.  These days, while we still have some wonderful Rush tribute bands, what we don't have are live concerts from Rush. I miss those concerts.  But I also miss the friendship I shared with the guys, and with the fans. There was a certain camaraderie, a certain warmth, a certain unspoken bond whenever the fans got together for a show. Of course, we were all different: we had different politics, different religious beliefs, different favorite songs. But we could put our differences aside and enjoy being part of the extended Rush family. It was an experience I've never had with any other band (or with any other group of fans).  And nearly three years later, it's something I continue to miss.


  1. Donna, I agree completely. For me being in those arenas surrounded by other fans "who just got it" was amazing, it endorsed my belief that these 3 humble men were simply the greatest band ever that the mainstream were missing out on for reasons I cannot comprehend. I miss those moments as do you, I don't hold it against Neil or Alex, they along with Geddy gave me the greatest musical experience ever for over 40 years which is absolutely incredible. I love them, miss them so bad, but I was lucky enough to live in the era of Rush and I am thankful for that. Thank you again Donna, you were a pivotal reason why all the above is true x

  2. Yes Donna, I miss them too but what fortunate luck we had to have 19 more years with them. They worked so hard all those years and left it all out there onstage night after night. I still get goose bumps over them. I had the random chance of meeting Geddy's sister at Reagan airport in January for 2 hours during weather delays nd didn't even no it till 5 weeks later, lol. She was going to Toronto and I to Austin. Her being Canadian I of course brought ip Rush not knowing who she was. Well she still gets goose bumps over their music too. I love that band and have so much respect for them and the community they have around it. Long live Rush!

  3. Donna, i am FB friend Walleye Waller. first time I learned about you was in Beyond the Lighted Stage in the classy old "Grand Cinema", Tacoma Washington. It was the last evening it was showing on a big screen, and i got the last ticket & seat that nite! :) just in time!!! I felt that coincidence alone was a gift and sign from God. But I was fascinated by your animated discussion of how you struck gold with Rush. A real GOLD RUSH!!! Boy that was the best unintended pun opportunity in a long time! :) Well, I was sad I couldn't make R40. Fact is I like them better in outdoor concerts anyway and Seattle and Portland were indoor arenas, and plus I was still recovering from almost losing my left leg 9 months prior, so had I gone to either one I would have swelled badly and simply been MISERABLE. But i am so thankful i met you on FB and you were so gracious to add me. Thank you for being SO lovely and a model for us younger generations. Part of your legacy is undoubtedly tied to the Power Trio, but your sensitivity, humility and genuine kindness is the real gift you bless us with.