WXRT host Lin Brehmer dies at 68

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Lin Brehmer often ended his radio essay segment “Lin’s Bin” by saying, “Take nothing for granted. It’s great to be alive.”

It was the mantra for years of the longtime WXRT (93.1) host — who became a household name in Chicago, known for his wit and sense of humor.

Brehmer died Sunday at age 68.

“It is with a heavy heart that we must inform you that we all lost our best friend. Lin Brehmer fought cancer as long as he could,” fellow host Terri Hemmert wrote in a post Sunday morning. “He passed early this morning, peacefully, with his wife and son by his side.”

Brehmer announced last July that he was taking a break from the station to undergo chemotherapy for prostate cancer. He said he had been undergoing various treatments, including radiation and drug therapies, for “several years.” He briefly returned to air in November, telling CBS2-Chicago “radio has been my life.”

Brehmer was with WXRT for more than three decades, most of them as morning DJ until he slid to middays in 2020. He’s perhaps best known for his radio essays called “Lin’s Bin.”

The segment consisted of his response to a listener’s question, interweaving prose with his encyclopedic knowledge of music and popular culture. “Lin’s Bin” was often funny and sometimes serious.

Those essays satisfied a creative yearning for Brehmer, who developed a love for literature in high school. “It’s a creative outlet. There is nobody looking over my shoulder,” Brehmer told the Sun-Times in 2018.

Messages honoring Brehmer flooded social media in the hours after his death.

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“Chicago has lost its best friend,” U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley said on Twitter.

Brehmer, a die-hard Cubs fan, has his name displayed on the marquee at Wrigley Field Sunday afternoon.

Born in Queens, New York, Brehmer began his radio career as a Sunday morning DJ in Albany. The first song he ever played as a professional DJ was “Within You Without You” by The Beatles because “I’ve always felt that flows within you, but most of all without you,” Brehmer said in 2017.

At that gig, he was nicknamed “the Reverend” because he would recite poetry over song introductions. “I would slip into Dylan Thomas or William Wordsworth,” he once told Sun-Times.

Brehmer moved to Chicago in 1984 to be the music director at ‘XRT. He worked behind the scenes until 1990, then took a short-lived radio job in Minneapolis. “I was there for 12 months, had a great time … then found out the owner of my radio station was bankrupt. So it made things very dicey,” Brehmer said.

He came back to ‘XRT the next year and took Hemmert’s spot as the morning DJ.

Brehmer once described himself as an “anti-shock jock.”

“It’s just not who I am,” he told the Sun-Times. “The closest I come to shock jock is standing up for civil rights or religious freedom. That’s very shocking these days.”

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Brehmer was a serious Cubs fan and loved to play catch with his son in his front yard, he said in an interview on ‘XRT in 2017.

He also had a lifelong affinity for sailing on Lake Michigan. “There’s something about that moment when you get the sails up and turn the engine off and it’s nothing but the sound of the wind. It’s one of the greatest moments you can have,” he said in the interview.

He also loved Chicago’s theater, music and dinings scene. “I love dining out in Chicago,” Brehmer said. “Whether it’s an Italian beef with hot peppers or it’s a 12-course menu at Acadia, I love the culinary here.

“And of course the biggest thing is the music: from the Chicago Blues, from going to Buddy Guy’s Legends, to seeing all the artists that choose Chicago as one of their main stops on their tours,” he said.

WXRT will celebrate Brehmer’s Monday at 10 a.m., Hemmert wrote.

“We’ll hold each other up through this heart-breaking time. Lin would want that. Take nothing for granted,” Hemmert wrote.