Waxing Nostalgic, Rush [music]

If we could go back in time and if I could invite you into my home in 1974, I’d want you to listen to my brother Russ’s favorite music for a moment. It was heavy, hard, crashing, wild, and untamed at times. Raw. Energetic. Heavy metal. Thundering.

Outside, it was summer. I had just graduated 11th grade. Playing sandlot baseball was all I had on my mind. My friends and I sometimes played all day at the high school ball field . All we needed was a pitcher, a first baseman, someone at shortstop and second base, and two outfielders. Right field was forever out to right-handed hitters, and left field was forever out to left-handed hitters. And any foul ball hit after two strikes was an out and sometimes resulted in a search for the ball in the woods behind home plate and along right field.

Some days we had to head to the Western Auto store to buy a new baseball, which sometimes led us to the Ben Franklin five-and-dime store to see what new music came in.

That’s how it happened one day, late in the summer, when Russ and I perused the rows of factory sealed records. A friend told us about a Canadian group called Rush. “Heard them on a Cleveland radio station when my folks took us to an Indians ballgame.” The song was Working Man. He talked to the store manager about ordering the record.

I thought nothing more about it. School started and one day (yes, we listened to the radio during study halls) we heard it. My friends and I flipped. We had to have it. But the Ben Franklin store still didn’t have it in because of a label change within the band’s management, or something like that, which held up the order at the distributor in Canada.

Meanwhile, back home, my brother and I immersed ourselves in music. To our delight, a local FM station (WMDI, McKean PA) played LPs at night. Whole records. It’s from that tiny station that we were able to hear Yes, Cream, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin—the list is huge. There was and still is no better way to appreciate an album than hearing it first before plunking down some hard-earned cash for the LP.

One winter night, the station played Rush’s album. It moved us, reached into our hearts and souls and connected. When it was over, we knew we had to own it, to have it in our music collections. I didn’t hear the album again until three months later, on my 18th birthday when Russ handed me the LP and said, “Play it.”

I did. I still do.

Rush, released in 1974 by Moon Records in Canada and by Mercury Records in the United States and internationally

Side 1
Finding My Way
Need Some Love
Take A Friend
Here Again

Side 2
What You’re Doing
In The Mood
Before And After
Working Man

In Memory of My Brother

My brother and best friend died on July 8, 2016. He was 57.

Russ died on a Friday night while I was at work and feeling that something wasn’t right. I knew he was sick—he’d been battling cancer for several years and was growing weaker by the day. His cancer had reached stage 4. I received the phone call the next day and wept. I was glad to know he no longer suffered, but I wept because I felt alone. We’d done so much together. Now he was gone.

Russ was born in a small town called Union City in Pennsylvania, on November 29, 1958. He was 21 months younger than his big brother Steve who, according to their mother, gave Russ all his toys the day Mom brought him home from the hospital. It didn’t take long for the two of them to become best friends. The rest is family legend.

Russ married when he was 17 and remained married to his wife for 40 years. During that time, he served in the United States Navy alongside his big brother for a while, raised an awesome daughter and awesome son, was an avid hunter, collected coins and knives, and loved the Pittsburgh Steelers, which began in 1971 after he and I watched the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series and wondered “Now what?”

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1969. My mother and I shared birthdays in February. Here, Russ stands behind me with a cousin, getting into the picture.
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1976. I had begun a career in radio when Russ convinced me to join the Navy with him. Here we are in Chicago the day we graduated boot camp.
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1980. Russ was Best Man at my wedding. Here we are posing for one of those humorous shots where I show up late for my wedding. Ha! Funny is how we look like waiters in our hip tuxedos.
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2001. Russ and I gave each other birthday gifts right up to his death. He had just brought me a gift in 2001 when he read an article about me and my artwork in the local paper. He was my biggest fan.
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2005. Here Russ poses on the day he had a local pilot fly our 66-year-old mom on her first plane ride. This was a week before her death from complications after stomach surgery. Russ was always glad he did this for her. So was I.

This has been a small glimpse of my brother’s life. Of course, telling it all would fill volumes of books. Perhaps I will, someday, tell more about him, one chapter at a time.

Rest in peace, dear brother. November 29, 1958—July 8, 2016.