Tributes flood in for Rae Donaldson, the Vinyl Exchange’s ‘music polymath… unique and wonderful’, who has died at 64

Graham Massey, Justin Robertson and James Holroyd were among those paying their respects

By Ben Arnold | 18 February 2024

Share this story

Tributes have been paid to Rae Donaldson, a friendly and recognisable face to legions of record collectors and crate diggers at Manchester institution the Vinyl Exchange.

The news was announced on social media that he had died on Friday – his 64th birthday.

As the manager of the Oldham Street record shop, where he had worked for nearly 30 years – and at Eastern Bloc prior to that – he was among a select group of key but understated figures to have shaped the city’s music culture.

DJ James Holroyd said he was ‘utterly devastated’ at the news, for the ‘hole that he has left in Manchester’.

“I’d have a statue done for this man,” he said in a post to Instagram. “I’m miles away and feel homesick as fuck as the collective grief will be massive. One of the greats. A unique, calm wit who could engage in conversation like no other.

“I was lucky enough to work with him at Vinyl Exchange (he was on his way to work there when his life suddenly ended and tragically on his birthday… he’d responded cheerfully to an early bday message as I’m 8 hours in front in Thailand just hours before he left us .. I will cherish that response forever and so glad he saw it and I had a few minutes thinking of how ace he was at the time).

Vinyl Exchange

“As much as I respected him as a music polymath, I always referred to him as the greatest wordsmith… but it all added to him being Rae. Unique and wonderful… Love you Rae and love to anyone who knew him.

“As fit n healthy looking as he was 30 plus years ago when i first came across him and as such it’s just horribly unbelievable… Goodbye Rae. Amazing Man x.”

Dave Haslam said: “Tragic that Rae Donaldson has died. Music fans get attached to their favourite record shop staff; I loved him.

“Eastern Bloc & then at Vinyl Exchange for nearly 30 years, so interested, so sussed. I met him mid-1980s when he was a bookseller at Haigh & Hochland. A beautiful soul.”

808 State’s Graham Massey called him ‘music through and through’.

“Sad to hear of the passing of Rae Donaldson – one of the faces of Manchester music scene who worked for decades in Vinyl Exchange records,” said John Robb. “Everyone knew Rae and spent hours laughing/arguing and talking music with him. He was also a Hulme neighbour.”

Justin Robertson said: “Thinking about the wonderful Rae Donaldson. Today was his birthday which makes his death all the harder. 

“We had some crazy times in Eastern Bloc records and it was always a joy to see him. Endlessly passionate about music and cultural matters in general. A beautiful soul. RIP x.”

The writer Nicholas Royle added: “Lovely man with [a] huge appetite for life, he will be greatly missed. It was – is – his 64th birthday. He was celebrating, he told me by text this morning, by going to work.”