CHICAGO — Lin Brehmer, the longtime WXRT radio host and disc jockey who for decades brought Rock and Roll to Chicago airwaves with his trademark mellifluous voice and knack for introspection, died Sunday after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 68.
Brehmer’s death was announced Sunday morning on-air by fellow XRT host and disc jockey Terri Hemmert, at the end of her “Breakfast With The Beatles” show.
“It is with a heavy heart that we must inform you that we all lost our best friend,” Hemmert said, referencing how Brehmer often introduced himself to listeners. “He passed early this morning, peacefully, with his wife and son by his side.”
Brehmer, whose long radio career included stints in New York and Minnesota, has been a familiar voice on XRT since 1984, when he became the station’s music director.
During his more than three decades on-air, Brehmer won a plethora of awards, and was named “Music Director of the Year” three times, as well as being named “Music Director of the Decade” in 1989 by a radio trade magazine, Hard Report.
Between spinning Talking Heads and R.E.M records, Brehmer became known to thousands of Chicagoans as the narrator of their morning commutes, school drop-offs and everything in between.
In 2002, he started a segment called “Lin’s Bin,” in which he would respond to listeners, or, in other instances, to himself, with humorous, heartfelt radio essays that touched on everything from sweatpants to Christmas Trees to the human condition.
Brehmer served as the station’s host of its morning show for most of the 2000s before a more recent pivot to a midday slot.
In July of 2022, Brehmer announced to listeners he would be taking a leave of absence to undergo chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer. As always, he brought the news with grace.
“The reason I do it, you really ought to know, it’s all for the love of Rock and Roll,” he said. “Till next time, I’m Lin Brehmer with XRT.”
During his absence, the station turned the tables on Brehmer, playing countless songs in his honor, often suggested by listeners, and replacing the “Lin’s Bin” segments with notes from well-wishers who finally had a chance to offer their appreciation for a radio host who had spent decades making his appreciation for them well known.
“Next time” eventually did come, with Brehmer briefly returning to air in November and December of 2022 before his death Sunday.
In a November interview with CBS, he explained his decision to return.
“[For] the immunosuppressed, there are very few things you can do that you enjoy. But one of them is to hide out in a radio studio by yourself,” Brehmer said. “Since it’s something I love, I thought I should go back and play some Roll and Roll music.”
Brehmer’s catch-phrase on air was “it’s great to be alive.”
On Sunday, Terri Hemmert said that the station would celebrate his life starting at 10 a.m. Monday, during his normal time slot.
“Take nothing for granted,” she said.
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