The news broke late last night and I must admit that I could barely believe what I was reading. It seemed that the super creative Rock Producer Paul O’Neill, mastermind behind the Trans-Siberian Orchestra had passed away at age 61. The bands official statement follows an image I captured during the East Coast Company’s 2016 regional appearance.
The entire Trans-Siberian Orchestra family, past and present, is heartbroken to share the devastating news that Paul O’Neill has passed away from chronic illness. He was our friend and our leader — a truly creative spirit and an altruistic soul. This is a profound and indescribable loss for us all. We ask that you respect Paul’s family’s privacy now. We will make additional announcements shortly.
This one really hits me hard since the music and people involved in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra are something that I hold very close to my heart. Those who’ve been reading our site for any measure of time know full well that we’ve been reporting on their performances and releases since our own launch. I’ve even referenced how I was seeing them in concert since the second year of their existence AND was a longtime fan of the Savatage output that Paul was a major part of. His loss at so young an age breaks my musical heart since there were so many worlds of creativity to still be shared and I am hopeful that there was some master plan scribbled down for them to be revealed.
When Paul came into the world of Savatage in 1987 with producer duties on “Hall Of The Mountain King”, the seeds were planted on making a very popular underground Metal band into something extraordinary. As albums followed the scope got grander and the overall song structures became something very unique and in some cases formed a larger story. We first felt this with “Streets: A Rock Opera” but it would be the 1995 “Dead Winter Dead” album that showed us just how grandiose this could get. The tune “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” which was an amped up “Carol Of The Bells” would be the worlds first real taste of the framework that would become the mighty Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I did love this tune and the album it came from but at first thought that O’Neill might have been a little mad to have come up with such a premise but then again isn’t genius often given that label? The rise of the popularity of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra did find the activity of Savatage being slim to none but that is understandable. In 2015 both Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra played side by side at the Wacken Open Air Festival and while a ton of footage is on YouTube, a professional release has not been issued. This is a must address item for sure now that Paul has passed away.
Paul’s accomplishments with the TSO are to be viewed with awe and I don’t only mean in the spectacle of entertainment that they were bringing to millions of fans (historically speaking) night after night but also in how it was impacting these fans lives. Over the course of my fifteen years of attending their shows I had been fortunate to meet so many fellow fans and some of them had seen over 100 performances each. It was incredible to know that something could do that. I’ve been fortunate to have met Paul on a few occasions and the generosity to those around him was incredible to behold. It’s very hard for me to imagine this no longer being possible. I remembered him talking to a family once and he told the boy with this group to open his hand and he placed what looked like a couple of $50 bills into it. At concerts, Paul would also throw his jacket to a fan in the front and there was a time when the Dad examined the jacket his kid had caught and said “hey there is money in the pocket”. It’s true since I watched this happen from close quarters. Paul’s kindness towards charity is also to be well-respected as with each and every concert ticket sold they would donate a $1 to an area charity. I loved this since it was not one single charity reaping all the benefit time and time again but scores of charities across the board in numerous states. Millions of dollars moving to areas that it is sorely needed. It was both generous and genius. With these referenced scenarios it’s safe to say that his memory and actions will live on forever in the hearts of his fans. As I discussed this sad passing a friend asked me if I believed that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra could continue without him and I’d like to think that it shall. This ideal is too big to end and brings too much joy too all who witness it. If Paul was ill and was keeping quiet about it, I’m thinking that a larger master plan was compiled should this circumstance come to pass. I say this because we found this happening with the late great David Bowie. Part of me also likes to think that these two musical geniuses are working on something extraordinary in the Great Hereafter and sending down that inspiration to the musicians of the world we walk upon. Paul was truly one of a kind and his talents immeasurable.
Thank you Paul O’Neill for giving us so very much. You will never be forgotten thanks to all of your incredible compositions. May you Rest In Peace. To all his family in life and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and all the fans he touched, please be strong during this sad time. In an “Old City Bar” Paul had a line that said “If you want to arrange it, this world you can change it” and I like to think that he did and now my friends it is up to the rest of us. Now he is watching us from the front row as the orchestra plays. Goodnight Paul.
5/30/2017: Statement From the Family
Paul’s family has been inspired and thankful for the outpouring of support, well-wishes, and prayers, and we thank you for your ongoing respect for their personal privacy.
At this time they would like to share a few more details about the passing of Paul O’Neill:
The Hillsborough, Florida medical examiner’s office has determined the official cause of Paul O’Neill’s death as accidental, resulting from an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications to treat his numerous chronic illnesses (including bone augmentation surgery, complications from spinal fusion surgery, heart disease, and hypertension).
Official Artist Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_O%27Neill_(rock_producer)