Rush Limbaugh has died. He was 70. Complications of advanced lung cancer took him.
I know Rush was a polarizing figure. If you fall on the side that reviled him, please don’t vent your venom in my comments. But I’m happy to have healthy discussions there.
I worked as a DJ in AM radio in 1990, at a “full service” station that played inoffensive music with happy DJs and news on the hour. That summer, we jettisoned our midday show and put in Rush.
AM radio was in steep decline then. Through the 1970s and 1980s, music formats increasingly moved to FM, leaving AM to flounder and lose its identity and purpose. Rush’s compelling show brought large audiences back to AM and, for a long time, showed AM radio how it could remain relevant.
What an entertaining revelation Rush’s show was! While I’m sure he believed the core principles he spoke of and advocated for on his show, it was clear that the way he did it was a shtick. He even used to say it in those days: his job was to deliver a large audience to advertisers, and he was very good at it.
I was a young skull full of mush then, as Rush would say. What he said on his show largely resonated with me, and helped shape my political views. I leaned conservative anyway; he pushed me the rest of the way over.
As the years passed, I found his show to be less fun. His shtick had not only gone stale, it had turned foul. I found myself pushed away, and eventually I quit listening.
I don’t know whether I’ve moved to the center, or the Republican Party has moved farther to the right, or both. What I do know is that a couple years ago when I sampled Rush’s show again for a while, I found myself repelled by most of what he said. I guess I’ve moved on.
But I will always respect Rush as a broadcaster. He really did save AM radio, staying its death for a couple decades at least. Thanks for the memories, Rush, and may you rest well.