FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2006, file photo, Paul O'Neill of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, poses in New York. O'Neill, who founded the progressive metal band, has died. University of South Florida police spokeswoman Renna Reddick told The Associated Press that O'Neill was found dead in his room by hotel staff at a Tampa Embassy Suites late Wednesday, April 5, 2017. The band said in a statement that O'Neill died from a "chronic illness." (AP Photo/Jim Cooper, File)

Paul O’Neill, the founder and band leader of prog-rock “Christmas” icons, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, has died at the age of 61. “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. We ask that you respect Paul’s family’s privacy now. We will make additional announcements shortly,” the band posted on their Facebook page. O’Neill first founded Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli (members of metal band Savatage) in 1996. O’Neill was previously a manager and producer for such bands as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Humble Pie, Joan Jett and Scorpions, when he began producing and co-writing albums for Savatage. TSO’s debut, ‘Christmas Eve And Other Stories’ was released in 1996 and spurned the runaway success ‘Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24’. The LP was a part of a Christmas rock opera trilogy, completed with albums ‘The Christmas Attic’ and ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’. With over 10 million albums sold the band is known for their extensive tour line-up and dazzling arena shows which used enough pyrotechnics to light up a small city practically. The band – in part O’Neill’s own generous spirit – had a policy of donating $1 per concert ticket to charities close to their heart, and raised at least $11 million.

Legendary Paul O’Neill, apart from a great man, was a composer, lyricist, producer (Omen‘s opus ‘Escape To Nowhere‘ among numerous others), and songwriter (Metal Church‘s masterpiece ‘Hanging In The Balance‘ among others), and apart from TSO he was an integral part for Savatage’s ‘Hall Of The Mountain King‘, ‘Gutter Ballet, Streets: A Rock Opera‘ and ‘Dead Winter Dead.

You can listen to Trans-Siberian Orchestra hits ‘Christmas Eve / Sarajevo’ and ‘Wizards In Winter’ down below.

Sarah Medeiros