thank you for the words and music.

My tribute to Lin Brehmer, my best friend in the whole world.

High school was the worst. Growing up on the southside of Chicago, it made sense for my parents to choose an all-girls school. Coming from a public school elementary and middle school, paired with not wanting to study unless it was reading or writing, parochial school was much harder than I anticipated – both socially and academically. I didn’t belong. And after four years, that never changed.

How many people start their day with coffee, or an early AM workout, my days started with 93XRT. My daily journey down 99th Street to school was slower than the cars around me, who were desperately trying to acquire a minute or two to spare on their way to work. My favorite DJ, Lin Brehmer, played “Soul Coughing” by Circles just as I was pulling into the parking lot at school. My first period was open, so I had a few minutes to sit and digest this song I had never heard before. Because if Lin was playing it, you knew it was good. And I loved it. At a time when embracing something new was such a negative and frightening ideal, Lin somehow made it easy for me. Even if it was something as simple as a song. Lin assured me that even though I didn’t belong in that building, with those people who were finding it hard to accept me, and me to them, it was okay to try something new. And when it came to music, it didn’t matter who you were – you always belonged. I went into school singing the words I could remember, and the melody I couldn’t forget. And you know what? I survived high school.

This sentiment followed me as I graduated from Columbia College Chicago and left Illinois to move to Michigan with my boyfriend at the time, now husband of almost 17 years. When I moved here to Michigan, those feelings of being an outsider flooded back. I took Lin and 93XRT with me. I streamed XRT every day. Away from my family and most of my friends, Lin was the constant that assured me that no matter where I was, with him I would always be home. 

As a lover of music, the written word, and of course, Chicago, I always felt like even with the hundreds of miles between us, I had a connection with Lin Brehmer. On the St. Patrick’s Day Lin’s Bin he brought me back to the southside of Chicago on parade day, where you could walk into anyone’s house near Western Avenue and grab a cold beer and corned beef sandwich, or how he captured the spirit of Wrigleyville on opening day, or broadcasted live from the Cubby Bear during an intimate concert. I was the St. Patrick’s Day Southside Irish Queen in 2003, and my husband and I lived in Wrigleyville for two years before we moved to Michigan. These things meant something to me. They made me who I am. And somehow, Lin always brought me back.

My husband and I listen to 93XRT at our business, which we run together. One of our favorite days of the year, September 30, is also Lin’s. We share a wedding anniversary. Every year we listen to Lin play “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder. It made our day even more special, to share an anniversary with “our best friend in the world” and the woman he so admired, because you could hear the love in his voice when he talked about his wife.

Last summer Lin took a leave from 93XRT as he prepared to battle cancer head-on. During this absence, the radio station allowed fans to dedicate songs to Lin. Our days seemed different without Lin’s voice, but we were elated when we found out he would be returning in November in mid-mornings, while undergoing chemotherapy. Because that’s who Lin was, he was someone who not only needed the music. He needed us, and we needed him. 

Last Sunday, after another fabulous Breakfast with the Beatles with Terri Hemmert, I learned Lin passed away early that morning. I thought about his wife, and son, and his fellow DJs at XRT. Most of all, I thought about Chicago. Everyone that listens to 93XRT has a Lin story to tell. The day after Lin passed away, the incredible DJs at XRT spent the day sharing stories and playing songs as a tribute to Lin. Some of the artists and musicians he met over the years shared their stories, too. I listened all day at work, in the car while my daughter was in guitar practice, and through the evening. My daughter said to me “I know how important Lin was to you, mom,” as I spent the day teary-eyed and completely glued to the station. 

Lin had a way of making you feel like you belonged, even in the most unlikely of places, he made our special days even more special, and he evoked the most beautiful memories, stepping into the places I cherished most when I couldn’t be there. This was Lin’s gift to me, and each person who connected with him over the radio waves. Lin had two great lines on his morning shows, or following a well-written Lin’s Bin, and those lines were “it’s a great day to be alive,” and he would tell his listeners he was “their best friend in the whole world.” 

Lin, you actually were my best friend in the whole world. Thank you for the words and music.