This is devastating news to music nerds and nerdy musicians everywhere. Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush, passed away this week. He redefined rock drumming, but he didn’t let drumming define him. A voracious reader, an author of seven books, an avid cyclist and motorcyclist, a lifelong learner… just an all-around interesting dude. Check out his website for more of his musings.
The first concert I ever saw was in 1982: Rush at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, Arkansas. The band I’ve seen in concert more than any other band? Rush! They absolutely crushed it live for 40+ years.
Despite an iconoclastic nature, Peart found musical, and personal, brotherhood with bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. The trio’s bond came alive during performances, which were immersive musical marathons that doubled as communal, spiritual experiences. Shows — of course — featured an extended Peart drum solo, performed with the precision of a surgeon and the creative freedom of a surrealist. But while highly technical, Peart’s playing was always joyous: As any Rush fan will share, air-drumming to 1981’s “Tom Sawyer” can be one of life’s greatest pleasures.From this NPR tribute by Annie Zaleski
Neil wasn’t just the best rock drummer ever, he also was Rush’s lyricist. Lots of obituaries for him are latching onto the Ayn Rand/sci-fi angle. That’s not a complete picture. Yes, Neil did dedicate Rush’s 2112 album “to the genius of Ayn Rand” but he later said that he’d outgrown that influence. And yes, many of Rush’s song lyrics read like science fiction. But tunes like “Losing It” and “Red Sector A” were a nod to Neil’s love of literature and history. Songs like “Entre Nous” and “Afterimage” have nothing to do with dystopian societies, and everything to do with personal connections and the human condition.
While his drumming spoke volumes, he rarely gave interviews, preferring to let his work stand on its own. As a shy high schooler, Neil’s lyrics spoke to me. As a bookish old man, they still speak to me.
“He was in many ways like an outsider — the guy who was often different from everyone else,” Halper says. “But that was okay with him. He didn’t want to be like everyone else. He just wanted to be Neil.”From this NPR tribute by Annie Zaleski
Rush’s final studio album was a concept album (no shock there… they had a few). The lyrics on the final song “The Garden” are Neil’s parting words to us.
R.I.P. Neil. Much love and respect.