For woman who discovered Rush, induction marks end of long 'injustice'
For the woman credited with discovering Canadian rock legends Rush, the announcement of their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week serves as sweet justice after years of rejection.
The iconic rockers have been inexplicably kept out of the rock shrine in Cleveland since they first qualified a decade-and-a-half ago -- an offence that has bewildered and annoyed legions of fans around the world.
Donna Halper -- who was responsible for the band's first airplay on a U.S. radio station -- said she was overwhelmed when she got the news. She has remained a steadfast supporter and friend of the band over the past 38 years, since first hearing their music.
"I'm a college professor … and I was sitting in a faculty meeting and I had my phone set to vibrate. My phone starts to vibrate all over the place and I looked at my news feed, and Rush had been inducted," she told CTV's Canada AM. "I'm not a very emotional person when I'm doing business ... but I had tears in my eyes, I did."
Rush will be inducted into the RRHOF on April 18, 2013, after a ceremony in Los Angeles. They'll join the hall along with New York rap pioneers Public Enemy, Donna Summer, blues guitarist Albert King, songwriter Randy Newman and American-Canadian rockers Heart.
The band's exclusion from the hall for so many years -- they first qualified in 1998 when their career hit 25 years -- has been an ongoing source of frustration to fans.
Rush has 18 albums that have gone platinum in Canada; a dozen have achieved that same honour in the U.S.
Halper said a core group of judges over the years simply didn't like Rush, and didn't want the band admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame despite their massive fan support. However, recently a new crop of judges was added and the tide turned.
"They liked Rush, they liked Rush's music and just said 'wow, this is probably the right time to do it,'" she said.
Halper was the music director at radio station WMMS in Cleveland in 1974 when she first heard Rush. A colleague at the Canadian branch of A&M Records sent her their album, which she still has to this day. A note was included with the record saying the Canadian label wasn't going to sign the band, but that it had some promise, and what did Halper think.
"I put the needle down -- back then, of course, it was records -- I put the needle down on 'Working Man' and I knew immediately this was a perfect record for Cleveland because it was kind of a working-class town and I just heard something with this band," Halper said.
She rushed downstairs to the recording booth and handed the record to the disc jockey that was on the air at the time and said "play this."
"He did, and the phones lit up and from there on. I helped them get their records into a record store in Cleveland. I became friendly with their management and then ultimately I met the band, helped them get launched in the United States and we've been friends ever since: 38 years."
In addition to being credited with discovering the band, Halper led the push to get them on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010 -- a milestone that helped open the door to the RRHOF.
As a veteran of the U.S. music scene with a well-earned reputation for discovering hit bands, Halper said she has done favours for countless people in the business over the years, getting their music on the radio or helping launch careers. But Rush is the only band, she said, that truly appreciated the support and returned it in kind, dedicating two albums to Halper and including her in a documentary about their career, "Beyond the Lighted Stage."
"They've kept in touch over the years, they're appreciative, and fans all over the world today are rejoicing that an injustice was corrected."