It’s no secret to anyone who visits this site that new content is a pretty rare thing these days. I’ve been going back and forth in my mind since I heard the news over whether I would write this. We have lost other classic rock giants recently including David Bowie, Tom Petty and Ric Ocasek and to be brutally truthful, I did not have a desire to chronicle their passing here. It’s certainly not because I consider their lives any less valuable than anyone else’s. It’s simply the fact that Neil Peart was a much more influential musician for me personally.
As an young and then-aspiring drummer a few decades ago, Peart was a huge influence for me and like so many others, I considered him to be one of the best rock drummers of all time. I thought I might just “move on” and eventually decide to not post anything here about Peart’s passing but I couldn’t forget. Not acknowledging it here felt to me like unfinished business.
Like countless others, I have been listening to Rush since the 1970s and I view them as part of the landscape that makes up my journey through life. I would not call myself a “super fan” since I recall going to only one Rush show in my life. It was back around 1981 if memory serves. I have just never been much of a live music fan and that has a lot to do with a dislike for large crowds and the notoriously inferior sound produced in huge, cavernous arenas. I got more enjoyment from slipping on a pair of good headphones, closing my eyes and savoring every musical nuance. I understand the desire to take in the live show experience and I guess that explains the five or so times in my life I attended a show by a major act. I don’t regret those experiences at all.
Although I was playing drums a few years before I ever heard the name Neil Peart, I was completely blown away when I first heard him play. How could anyone be that good? Could I ever become even half the musician he is? Maybe a quarter? Probably not. Still, that did not stop me from learning some Rush tunes as best I could and I enjoyed the hell out of playing along with those records back then. Peart elevated my ambitions more than any other drummer I had ever heard. Who didn’t want to be able to play like him? Even non-drummers wanted to!
Since I work at home these days and normally have a news feed-type program running all day on a nearby monitor, I learned about Neil Peart’s death pretty quickly after it broke nearly a month after he passed. Learning about the death of celebrity is not a rare thing and it is hard not to notice how it has picked up speed now that I am getting up there in years. Peart was only six years my senior and had apparently been battling cancer for over three years. He was known as a very private man and I suspect his family and friends delayed releasing the news to the public according to his wishes. The news of his passing shook me like that of no other musician up to that point. I think I spent the next few days working my way through listening to every Rush album I have with renewed appreciation and admiration.
I have such fond memories of listening to early Rush music, particularly from Hemispheres and wondering how three guys could create that sound. I thought Peart’s lyrics were brilliant and an intellectual cut above just about everything else that was on the radio in those days. How could anyone not love their stuff? I may not have been a super fan but I was definitely a Rush Nerd.
I haven’t been behind a drum kit in over 30 years but I never lost the desire to get back into it. Life has a way of pushing some pleasures aside and drumming was one of those things for me, but as I approach retirement it is something I intend to take up again simply for my own enjoyment. When I do, the influence of Neil Peart will surely be there and more than a few Rush songs will be on the playlist.
Rest peacefully, Neil Peart. As long as I remain in my right mind I will never forget you and the part you played in my life.