WGN - To remember Chicago’s “best friend in the whole world,” WXRT hosted a special broadcast Monday to honor Lin Brehmer.
Brehmer, 68, passed away Sunday morning following a battle with prostate cancer.
The Chicago radio legend returned to the airwaves in November after taking a leave of absence in the summer.
Longtime co-worker and friend Terri Hemmert had to give the difficult news to listeners Sunday who felt close a man they may have never met through his love of air guitaring, his poetic essays through “Lin’s Bin,” watching the Cubs close out a day game and eating great Chicago food.
Hemmert was on hand Monday morning at 10 a.m. along with several other WXRT DJs to host a special broadcast remembering Brehmer.
“A true renaissance man, he could talk to anybody about anything and he was brilliant — he was just so loveable,” Hemmert said.
Two of his most beloved institutions in the city, the Metro and Wrigley Field, honored him with tributes on their marquees.
The founder of the Metro, Joe Shanahan, joined Terri Hemmert to tell multiple great stories about Brehmer.
As previously mentioned, every live music lover could see themselves in Lin and Shanahan said he had to tell “The Jack White story,” following a Lollapalooza aftershow in 2018.
“That night, I started acting like a 16-year-old kid. Who is jumping up and down next to me? Lin Brehmer,” Shanahan said. “I remember these stories and moments because the man meant so much to our community.”
Some of the bands Shanahan would book back then gained exposure because Brehmer, who was music director at WXRT before DJing the morning show in 1991, “was first.”
“He was first on a record, first coming to shows that were under the radar, the first getting the touch of ‘XRT love,” Shanahan said.
While Brehmer wasn’t born in Chicago, the city was made for him.
“Chicago had everything he wanted; music, live music, baseball, pizza,” longtime WXRT DJ and friend Johnny Mars said.
Lin Brehmer was the man.
You don't have to take my word for it. Joe Shanahan is friends with the coolest people in the world, and runs one of the best music venues on the planet. The fact he loved Lin Brehmer so much and speaks so fondly of him is all the evidence you need.
I used to see Lin all the time at Wrigley. He didn't work for the Cubs but he might as well have. It seemed like when he wasn't on air at WXRT he was at Wrigley Field.
The first couple years I was DJ’ing Cubs game at the park he would bust my balls pretty good about some of the more “current” songs I would play.
He wouldn’t take to twitter to passive aggressively take shots like Paul Sullivan, rather he’d flash a friendly smile, and hello, passing each other in the press box hallway before sliding in a, “hey man take it easy on the techno. This is a Church we’re in.”
(The techno was player walk up songs or rally videos FYI)
Everywhere he’d go every single person, (unless they were from the visiting club and didn’t know who he was) would stop to say hi, shoot the breeze, shake his hand, high five him, whatever. The man seemed to know everybody. From behind the scenes lifeblood guys like, “Quick Rick”, our scoreboard operator/grounds crew head, to Cubs royalty like Pat Hughes, Lin was friends with everybody.
Aside from Brian Garza, I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody more in love with music who wasn’t a musician themselves. He was an encyclopedia of music knowledge. There was nothing better than hearing him tell his personal stories of interactions with a band, seeing a band play a local Chicago hole in the wall venue, or running into a famous artist at a bar, before introducing the pertinent song by that band/artist. I think he hundreds, maybe thousands of these. Because I never heard the same one twice.
This kind of personalization, and connectedness to listeners is all but extinct in radio today. You might laugh but it’s truly an art. And Lin was up there with Rembrandt.
Not to mention, he had a freaking incredible ear for music, and giant balls to match. To hear and see so many artists and personalities point out just how many bands and artists Lin “broke” in the Chicago market really speaks volumes.
We’re not talking about today where there’s Spotify, Apple Music and 20 other streaming services for us to pull up whatever song we want on demand. Radio back in Lin’s day was the end all, be all. For an up and coming act to break through in the third biggest market in the country, Chicago, on one of the most listened to rock stations, thanks to a DJ who gave a shit and appreciated music he thought was good and deserved a shot is absolutely unheard of today.
He was also able to parlay his job in music, (and his golden voice), into his obsession with baseball, and his beloved Cubs.
Being asked to narrate tribute videos to heroes of his like Ernie Banks had to have sent him over the moon.
I honestly had no idea he was sick. He was one of those guys whose voices you think you’re going to hear on the radio until the end of time. One of those faces you’d run into everytime you make your way to 1060 W. Addison. It really sucks he’s gone.
The silver lining though is I don’t think there was any doubt in his mind while he was alive how loved and cherished he was by this entire city and those closest to him. I mean, the moniker “Chicago’s best friend in the whole world” is pretty big time.
We should all be so lucky to be able to look back on a life where so many people speak so highly and fondly of us.
P.s.- major props to WXRT for rolling out a killer playlist today as tribute to Lin. All his favorite songs. Tough to beat this.
A portion of WXRT’s tribute playlist is below, from 10 a.m. through 2:45 p.m.
- Led Zeppelin – Hey Hey What Can I do
- The Record Company – Off the Ground
- Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
- The Who – Blue, Red and Grey
- Echo and the Bunnymen – Sugar Kisses
- Storyville – Good Day for the Blues
- Steve Earle – Someday
- The Roundabouts (Lin’s high school band) – Steppin’ Stone (Monkees cover)
- Lowen and Navarro – Walking on a Wire
- Garland Jeffreys – R.O.C.K.
- The Beatles – In My Life
- John Prine, Kurt Vile – How Lucky
- Peter Gabriel – That Voice Again
- Eddie Vedder – All The Way
- Suzanne Vega – Marlene On The Wall
- Gomez – See The World
- Joan Baez – They Drove Old Dixie Down
- Richard Thompson, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
- Led Zeppelin – Friends
- Tuff Darts- All for the Love of Rock and Roll
- Sufjan Stevens – Chicago
- The Smashing Pumpkins – Cherub Rock
- Cheap Trick – On The Radio
- Warren Zevon – Mohammed’s Radio
- The Rolling Stones – Loving Cup
- The Godfathers – Birth, School, Work, Death
- World Party – Put The Message In The Box
- The Avett Brothers – No Hard Feeling
- Grateful Dead – Music Never Stopped
- Mike Doughty – Light Will Keep Your Heart beating
- James McMurtry – Candyland
- Guster – Careful
- U2 – Satellite of Love
- Little Feat – Time Loves a Hero
- Steve Earle – Hard Core Troubadour
- The Staple Sisters – I’ll Take You There
- Warren Zevon – Keep Me in Your Heart
- George Harrison – All things Must Pass
- Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
- Poi Dog Pondering – Complicated
- The White Stripes – We’re Gonna Be Friends
- Queen – You’re My Best Friend
- Bruce Springsteen – Glory Days