This is a tough blog to type. On January 7th, the music world lost a true giant and the drumming world lost one of the very best to ever play the instrument. Neil Peart passed away after a quiet, 3 year battle with brain cancer. When this was first announced on Friday, January 10th, I just remember thinking how amazing it was that his friends and family were able to keep his illness a secret. Instant information is all around us, but somehow, those closest to Neil managed to keep his condition private. I think that is the ultimate show of respect to a man that cherished his privacy and more than anything, just wanted to be a regular guy. I will always admire his band mates, family, and friends for honoring this man by saying nothing about what he was going through.
Neil was a huge influence on me as a drummer. I, like thousands of other drummers, sat in my room and tried to learn every cool lick from “Moving Pictures”. To be honest, I’m still trying to learn! He played with such power and precision and nothing ever felt overdone. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “Neil Peart plays too many notes.” Every single note he played belonged perfectly. I used his signature Promark drum stick for a lot of my teenage years, and I still have a couple pairs packed away in a box somewhere. I’m really glad I kept them now. The ultimate Rush fan and Neil Peart fan experience was seeing them live. I was lucky enough to see the band four times; the first being in 1997 on the “Test for Echo” tour. It was amazing to watch some of my musical heroes play those complex songs in person, and play them with a lot of joy. I’ve never seen so much air drumming in one place in all my life.
Aside from his drumming, Neil was a gifted lyricist and a talented author. The painful experience of losing his only child (at that time), the death of his wife, and the motorcycle trip that saved his life was told beautifully in the book, “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road”. Neil was great at describing the riding conditions and his surroundings; your mind’s eye could easily paint the pictures his words were describing. You could also feel his pain as he struggled to find himself again after such tragedy. I always appreciated him putting that story out for the world to read. Neil’s song lyrics connected deeply with many people on many different levels. A lot of people get caught up in the complexity of their arrangements, but the stories and feelings crafted in his thoughtful lyrics resonated with people throughout the world.
When Rush finally called it a day in 2015, fans often wondered if we would ever see them perform a one-off show or hear some new studio music. Knowing what Neil was going though in private, the band told the world that Rush was finished in 2018. A lot of fans always held out hope, but that hope was finally laid to rest with Neil’s passing last Tuesday.
Rest in Power, Professor. Thank you for sharing your gifts with all of us on Earth. Your body may be gone, but your spirit will live on in your drumming, your lyrics, and your books forever. I can say with the utmost confidence that there will never be another like you. Thank you for being such a huge part of my existence.