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Paul O’Neill (1956–2017)

by Legacy Staff

Music mastermind founded prog rock’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Paul O’Neill, the creative music mastermind who founded the progressive rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra, died Wednesday, April 5, 2017. He was 61.

The cause of death was not immediately available. The band announced the death on its official Facebook page.


“The entire Trans-Siberian Orchestra family, past and present, is heartbroken to share the devastating news that Paul O’Neill has passed away from chronic illness.

“He was our friend and our leader — a truly creative spirit and an altruistic soul. This is a profound and indescribable loss for us all.”

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O’Neill was born Feb.23, 1956, in New York City. He started playing the guitar with several rock bands while in high school.

He launched his professional music career during the 1970s with Slowburn, his first prog rock band, but he abandoned the project because he was displeased with the final recordings. He gained experience, however, which would serve him well during the 1980s and ’90s.

He soon joined Leber-Krebs Inc., the music management company that worked with big-name bands such as Aerosmith, the New York Dolls, Def Leppard, and Joan Jett.

In the 1980s, O’Neill promoted the tours of Madonna and Sting in Japan, as well as major rock music festivals there.

Later in the decade, O’Neill co-produced Aerosmith’s 1986 and 1987 albums, “Classics Live I” and “Classics Live II.” Soon after, he struck up a friendship with John and Criss Oliva, the founders of the heavy metal band Savatage, and Savatage member Al Pitrelli. The band was known for its 1986 album “Fight for the Rock” among others during the late ’80s and early ’90s.

During the mid-’90s, O’Neill formed Trans-Siberian Orchestra along with Savatage’s John Oliva and Pitrelli, joined by keyboardist Robert Kinkel. The arena rock band went on to stage huge rock productions in 1999 after finishing “The Christmas Attic,” the group’s second album.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra has sold more than 10 million albums.

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