Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O’Neill Dies at 61 (video)

Paul O’Neill was a character. Of that there is no question.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra leader — who died Wednesday night (Apr. 5) at the age of 61 from chronic illness — was a rock ‘n’ roll True Believer and one of the most genuinely sweet souls ever to pick up a guitar, write a song or produce an album. Ask him how he was and you’d get a lengthy, often tangential discourse on the inspirational and redemptive powers of rock, how much fun he had seeing Pink Floyd in concert, what he was reading at the moment and how his daughter was doing. Or the unapologetic confessions of a self-proclaimed “pyro whore.”

And that was all before the second question.

Anyone visiting O’Neill backstage at a TSO show would walk away with some nice piece of swag or a silver dollar from the year you were born, from a stock kept in a road case. Out on the concourses, meanwhile, O’Neill — who insisted the TSO musicians meet the audience and sign autographs after the concerts — would quietly and anonymously (as much as he could be anonymous looking very much like a prototypical 70s rock star, long hair and shades included) gift fans with more merch.

O’Neill is survived by his wife and their daughter in New York. There’s no word yet on TSO’s plans in the wake of his death.

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