In the mid-late fifties, a young Neil Ratner was banging his silverware on the kitchen table and anything else he could find, with the dream of becoming a rock and roll drummer.
But after being in a few bands in high school and not achieving the success he needed to continue, Neil packed up and began a pre-med curriculum at the University of Vermont.
To say the years to come and his life ahead would be “an incredible journey” would be an understatement.
“I wrote this book for a couple of reasons,” states Neil. “I’ve had this incredible life and I wanted to share it. And, of course, I want people to know the Michael Jackson that I knew… He wasn’t the Michael Jackson you think you knew from the press. Michael was a wonderful person… spiritual, sense of humor… and I think my stories will indicate that…”
Rock Doc offers a unique insight into three distinct stages of Neil’s life; “The Rock,” “The Doc” and how his two passions combined to create “The Rock Doc.”
Rock Doc features 36 chapters, 317 pages, some three dozen images and countless stories.
The summer of 1969 would prove to be a very significant time for Neil. He took a summer job in New York City training to be an operating room technician and sublet an apartment in New York City’s gritty East Village. Rick Derringer, formerly of the band The McCoys (who had the massive #1 hit “Hang On Sloopy in 1965), lived upstairs and he and Neil struck up a friendship. Rick was working with both Johnny and Edgar Winter. Neil asked Rick to get him a job as a drummer to no avail and after the summer, Neil went back to the pre-med program at the University of Vermont.
But everything changed a year later when, in a surprise phone call, Rick asked Neil to be the road manager for Edgar Winter’s new band, White Trash (featuring Derringer, who produced the band’s self-titled album). Although Neil really wanted to be the drummer, he took the job and started his short but intense career in the music business. After about a year with Edgar, he took a job as special assistant for rock impresario Dee Anthony and toured with Dee’s bands Humble Pie, Peter Frampton, J. Geils Band and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
As a matter of fact, ELP were so impressed with Ratner that they invited him to move to London to be their full-time tour manager. During his time in London, Neil realized that there was a need for a new type of company to take care of all the touring needs of major groups and Circus Talents Ltd. was formed.
Peter Watts, the chief sound engineer for the Pink Floyd, and Neil had become good friends and Watt’s hooked him up with the technical experts to make the company happen… Watts was so impressed with Ratner’s company, he implored Floyd manager, Steve O’Rourke, to combine forces with them for the March 1973 North American leg of the Dark Side of the Moon Tour and beyond. The production was so successful that O’Rourke let Watts and Ratner use the combined equipment for a few more tours including a U.S. tour with Three Dog Night and T-Rex.
Struck down a bit by the rock and roll lifestyle (“I beat myself up pretty good”), Neil was hospitalized in London with kidney stones. While there, he had a life-changing experience after watching a 1955 movie titled, Not as a Stranger, featuring Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum and Olivia de Havilland, about a bunch of medical students going through their trials and tribulations.
Becoming a doctor was no easy task. Neil had to first finish college and was not accepted into a U.S. medical school for a variety of reasons, including limited spaces from large numbers of Vietnam Vets. Foreign medical schools were a legitimate alternative and after a crash course in Spanish at a language school, Neil and his new bride (married only a week) drove to Guadalajara, Mexico to begin four years of medical school.
Getting back into the American medical system involved a year of unpaid internship at a U.S. hospital after which Neil passed his exams and began a residency in surgery. After two years, Neil realized that surgery was not for him and was drawn instead to the other side of the operating table and a career in the specialty of Anesthesiology.
Dr. Neil Ratner took the bold step of helping to establish the new specialty of office-based anesthesia in New York City. In doing so, Dr. Ratner became an expert in the use of the new drug Propofol, a drug that would play a significant role in Neil’s future.
Although Dr. Ratner encountered many celebrities in his anesthesia practice, one would change his life. Eight years after establishing his office anesthesia practice, Michael Jackson walked into an office in which Neil was the director of Anesthesia. Neil became a trusted friend of Michael’s and for eight years (1994-2002) periodically traveled the world with Michael as his personal physician and friend.
“I liked Michael right away,” states Neil. “I was a doctor and a real music guy and we just hit it off,” adding “He was a wonderful friend and I miss him.”
The detailed story of how they met and their years together is all contained in the book.
Most of all, the book is about Neil’s journey which, in addition to his rock and roll stories and his time with Michael Jackson, includes stories about:
- His time in Africa and his relationship with Nelson Mandela
- His charity work in Africa and beyond
- Neil’s struggles with addiction and the story of the fertility business and why he went to prison (with very unexpected results)
- Denise Rich and the Dream Factory
Today, Neil and his wife of 42 years, Leann, reside in a town known for something else that occurred in the summer of 1969… Woodstock.
What better place for the Rock Doc?
For Neil, the story continues and the beat goes on…