The music world was shaken by another surprise death on Wednesday night (April 6). Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O'Neill has passed away at the age of 61 from "chronic illness," according to the band's management and a post on its Facebook page.
The statement reads that, "The entire Trans-Siberian orchestra family, past and present, is heartbroken to share the devastating news that Paul O'Neill has passed away...He was our friend and our leader -- a truly creative spirit and an altruistic soul. This is a profound and indescribably loss for us all. We ask that you respect Paul's family's privacy now. We will make additional announcements shortly."
The New York-born O'Neill was a studio musician, composer and producer who played in Broadway pit bands and went on to work with Aerosmith, Badlands, Metal Church, Savatage and others before launching TSO in 1996 with Savatage's Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli and Robert Kinkel.
The group has released eight mostly conceptual albums and an EP, including three full-length Christmas-themed works. It also became an annual, two-company touring sensation for the holiday season, playing over-the-top, pyrotechnic-laced to hundreds of thousands during a two-month touring cycle each year.
O'Neill told us last year that
"It was always part of the vision of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the mixture of classical and rock, which I obviously got from bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, (and) the rock opera aspect, which I plainly got from The Who. The vision has always been cutting-edge and making sure there's no such thing as a bad seat, I got from Pink Floyd...I guess you can design a show as long as you don't worry about the budget where there's no such thing as a bad seat...It's just worth it, when you see the look in the audience's faces."
O'Neill was also known for his desire to keep ticket prices affordable and for charitable efforts. He's survived by a wife and daughter in New York.
There's no word yet on TSO's future plans in the wake of O'Neill's death.
© 2007 WMG Christmas Eve/ Sarajevo [Timeless Version]
Gary Graff is an award-winning music journalist who not only covers music but has written books on Bob Seger, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.