Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Making Memories: Some Thoughts About a Birthday (Mine) and an Anniversary (Rush's)

I never thought of myself as an especially memorable person-- I mean, yes, I knew I was different from the way girls in the 1950s were supposed to be, but I didn't expect to become famous. On the other hand, I wondered if I'd be able to do anything unique or noteworthy. I certainly hoped I would, but I was surrounded by folks who told me I wouldn't. I was determined to prove the doubters wrong, but to be honest, I didn't know if I'd succeed.

Fast forward to 2022.  On Valentine's Day, I turned 75. As a cancer survivor, I was happy to still be here, able to celebrate another year. My husband made a wonderful dinner, we had birthday cake, and we spent a peaceful evening at home. But I was genuinely surprised to see that about 900 people reached out to me on social media, to wish me well on my birthday.  Most were Rush fans. But some were former colleagues in radio or the music business. A few were former students, or folks I had mentored along the way. Some I hadn't heard from in years, but there they were, saying hi and wishing me well. Some, I had kept in touch with for decades-- including Bob Roper, who had sent me that first Rush album back in 1974, and record promoter Heavy Lenny Bronstein, with whom I go back to my days in college radio. Evidently there are some folks who do think I'm memorable after all.

And speaking of memorable, I was reminded by several Rush fans that not only is February 14 an important day, but so is February 15-- that's the anniversary of the release of "Fly by Night," which came out on February 15, 1975. I remember it well-- after Neil had joined the band in July 1974, so much changed for them. They did a live concert at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland on Monday December 16, 1974, and they played a couple of the new songs they'd been working on. As I recall, the songs were so new that they hadn't performed them before-- "Fly By Night" was one, and I loved it immediately. So did the audience-- a very receptive and enthusiastic crowd that fell in love with Rush the same way I did-- after hearing "Working Man" in the spring of 1974. (Among the best decisions I made as a music director was getting behind "Working Man" and encouraging everyone at WMMS to play it. It worked out better than I ever dreamed it would.)

And I remember how Geddy and the band got ready to play "Working Man" at the Agora, but first he stopped and gave me a shout-out, and encouraged the crowd to do the same. I was not expecting that-- as I've said many times, over the years, I helped lots of bands and never got so much as a thank-you. But Rush were always unique in that regard-- they never forgot the people who were there for them. Geddy looked right at me and smiled, and the audience gave me some applause, and then the guys launched into a dynamic live version of "Working Man." And just like the opening chords of "Finding My Way" still give me chills, I can't help but feel a sense of pride whenever I hear "Working Man." I was able to watch the guys go on to have a successful career: "Fly By Night" was just a preview of their new direction, and it proved that Neil's contribution would be immense. It was amazing to witness it first-hand.

So, here's to birthdays, and here's to anniversaries, and here's to friendships. I wish Neil were still here, but I am grateful for his music, and grateful for the fans who still love Rush, and who think of me as family too.  And while I've written a lot of books and articles, and had a number of accomplishments of my own, I don't know if 900 people would have reached out on my 75th birthday if it weren't for a certain rock band from Canada, who came into my life unexpectedly, and changed it for the better.   


  1. You are an amazing person, you are a treasure to talk with and to get to know. I love your blogs and this one reminded me of where I came from, where I have gone and what I still have left to do. Your wisdom and perspective are always welcomed. Be Well.

  2. A great post, Donna! Filled with gratitude and joy. You have lived an inspiring life and I wish you many more happy years! Love, Vicki