“With talent on loan from God,” Rush Limbaugh used to mock-brag on his show. Now the loan’s been called, as the man who remade talk radio went off to meet his maker after a tough battle with lung cancer.
Wherever it came from, Limbaugh was a genius. Above all, he knew he was an entertainer first, and only then a political commentator — though his analysis was so often brilliant, too.
His national show began at New York’s own WABC in July 1988 as the Reagan era was ending. Soon many would see Rush as the new leader of the conservative movement, such was his influence (20 million listeners a week for three hours a day on 650 stations) and (as important) his commitment to principle.
But it was the humor that kept them coming, the fake egoism (he was quite shy in person), the spot-on skewering of liberal pretensions, the gonzo recordings . . . and the fact that he laughed at himself.
In the process, he remade talk radio — and probably talk TV, too: The range of talent (and not just on the right) basically imitating him today fills the airwaves.
Limbaugh’s success made him tens of millions, but he also gave much to charity, usually anonymously. He earned his way into the National Radio Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and into the hearts of millions of “Dittoheads.”
Rest in peace.