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Rybak worked closely with McLean when he was publisher of the Twin Cities Reader, the now-defunct alt-weekly newspaper, and they would quibble over trades for promotion. “Negotiating with Sue made the City Council seem easy,” Rybak said Friday. “She was tough, but even at her toughest she was able to maintain a friendly relationship. I loved working with her.”
As a woman in the concert business, McLean stood alone.
“In terms of a company completely run by a woman risking her own money on shows, I can’t think of another person,” Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the national concert journal Pollstar, said last year. “There are women in talent-buying at Madison Square Garden, AEG Live and Live Nation. But Sue is competing with the big boys. She’s managed to carve a little niche for herself.”
Musicians understood that.
“Not only was it rare that she was such a successful woman in the concert business, but it was very rare that she remained independent while every other small promotions company in the country got bought up by Live Nation and AEG,” said Minneapolis rocker Kevin Bowe, who used to hang posters for McLean’s shows years ago. “She did exactly what she wanted to do with her life for her whole life,” including jumping out of helicopters for downhill skiing.
McLean had a human touch that set her apart from other promoters.
“Besides being a complete professional and always getting the job done, she also always gave me a hug and made me feel special,” said St. Paul singer-songwriter Molly Maher.
A couple of years ago when both of them were undergoing chemotherapy and keeping it relatively under wraps, they looked at each other at a Los Lobos concert (“both of ours favorite band”) and asked, “Are you wearing a wig?” said Maher. “After that, our bond was pretty strong.”
McLean is survived by her daughter, Lilly; her brother, Terry, and his wife, Joan; her sister-in-law Marilyn McLean, and several nieces and nephews.
Services are set for 11 a.m. Friday at the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, with reviewal beginning at 9:30 a.m. A reception will follow. A musical tribute fundraiser will be staged on another day, and details about a fund for Lilly McLean will be available at www.suemclean.com.
Staff writer Chris Riemenschneider contributed to this story.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719