Saturday, January 11, 2020

This One is Personal

The arrow flies when you dream, the hours tick away – the cells tick away

-          The Garden

Friday, January 10th, 2020: It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three-and-a-half-year battle with brain cancer.

Neil Peart died this week. 

Neil Peart, the virtuoso drummer and lyricist for Rush, died Tuesday, January 7th, in Santa Monica, California, at age 67….

Peart was one of rock’s greatest drummers, with a flamboyant yet precise style that paid homage to his hero, the Who’s Keith Moon, while expanding the technical and imaginative possibilities of his instrument.

The news came out three days after his death.  I was driving in my car listening to sports talk radio.  Coming back from commercial, they played Tom Sawyer, from Rush’s Moving Pictures album.  While rare, occasionally a Rush song gets used in such a manner.

But this time it wasn’t just for fun.  They said Peart had died.  On sports talk radio.

We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance

-          Farewell to Kings

Being in my car, I couldn’t fact-check the news.  I called my brother.  Many years ago, we wore out three copies of the Rush album 2112.  For you young whipper-snappers, this was in the time of vinyl, when a physical needle would touch a physical disc.  Play an album enough times, and it would sound like mush.

Sundays I elude the ‘Eyes’, and hop the Turbine Freight
To far outside the Wire, where my white-haired uncle waits

-          Red Barchetta

It was 2112 that introduced me to Ayn Rand – which then led, eventually to all of this blogging.  2112 is based on her novel, Anthem, although – for some reason, many link it to Fountainhead.  It is Anthem, with a guitar in place of a lightbulb.  Come on, people; it isn’t that complicated.

Anyway, it was true.  He had died three days earlier.

Now there’s no more Oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet,
And saw…

-          The Trees

I texted my cousin – he has been to many more Rush concerts than I have.  He hadn’t heard yet.  He reminded me that the first time he had ever heard Rush was at our house – thatched roof and all.  My brother-in-law and I talked.  He knew of Rush before I did – and before we became brothers-in-law.

Too many hands on my time
Too many feelings —
Too many things on my mind

-          The Analog Kid

Rush was an interesting band.  Only three members, yet their sound would fill the stage.  A big reason for this was Peart’s drumming.  He wasn’t playing drums; he was playing an orchestra – every bit as involved in the sound and the music as the other two members.

You know how that rabbit feels
Going under your speeding wheels

-          Between the Wheels

The best drummers in rock and progressive rock will point to Neil Peart as not only an inspiration, but an unrealizable objective.  He was that good, and that good for over forty years.

From first to last
The peak is never passed
Something always fires the light
That gets in your eyes

-          Marathon

Of course, his two bandmates were no slouches – both recognized as among the top musicians in their fields.  And the band got better with age – the musicianship only got better.

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission…

-          Mission

Peart suffered tragedy in the late 1990s.  Within a few months, first his teenage daughter, then his wife, passed away.  Peart is convinced that his wife (not officially his wife, but whatever) died from a broken heart.  He told his bandmates he was done.  Fortunately for the rest of us, he came back five years later.

Celebrate the moment
As it turns into one more
Another chance at victory
Another chance to score

-          One Little Victory

They did some of their best work after Peart’s return.  Who knows why – maybe a realization of how quickly one’s love can be lost.

One day I feel I’m on top of the world
And the next it’s falling in on me

-          Far Cry

Their last studio album was Clockwork Angels.  It might have been their best.  I assure you: no one will accuse the Rolling Stones of doing their best work after forty years.

All is for the best
Believe in what we’re told
Blind men in the market
Buying what we’re sold

-          BU2B

Their last tour was in 2015.  They called it the R40 Tour: forty years of playing together (actually, forty-one, but grant artists some license, please).  It was creative: they played the songs in reverse sequence, from newest to oldest – all-the-while devolving the stage until, by the time they got to the end, it was set up like a high-school gym.

Peart was ready to call it quits after this tour.  His body was hurting – drumming wears out ligaments.  He also was remarried and had a young daughter – he enjoyed taking her to school.

Sadly, this part of his life didn’t last long enough.


When we are young
Wandering the face of the earth
Wondering what our dreams might be worth
Learning that we’re only immortal –
For a limited time

-          Dreamline

All Lyrics: Neil Peart, Rush


  1. I'm sorry Bionic. When I read the news, you were the first thought in my mind. It is sad. Thank you. Peg

  2. Here Bionic. I think you'll enjoy this.

  3. Hello BM,

    I too am mourning the passing of Neil Peart. I discovered Rush around the same time you did. It was their A Farewell to Kings album. I wore it, and many of their records, out on my turntable too. As a Canadian, I heard much of their music on my local radio but it was their concept albums that hooked me. I loved that period of their music.

    I was lucky to have seen Rush a few times throughout their performing history. Great memories and great music.

    Neil Peart is dead! Long live Neil Peart and long live Rush!

  4. Anytime Tom Sawyer comes on the radio, I gotta turn it way up for Neil's drum solo and do my best to air drum along, though I always get it wrong (it's hard to impersonate hitting a 40 piece drumset).

    Guy was definitely a legend. I didn't know he wrote some of the lyrics. Thanks for the tribute!

    1. Almost all the lyrics.

      His first studio album was the second album for the band (the first drummer had health issues and didn't go on tour; that's when they added Peart). Starting then, he wrote most lyrics.

      Probably by the fifth album or so, all lyric credits were his, while all music credits went to Lee and Lifeson.

      My guess is that it wasn't that cut and dry, but I guess they felt it was close enough to true.

    2. In most cases drummers are robbed of song writing credit. I seriously doubt that Alex or Geddy handed Neil a drum chart with any actual written drum parts.

      I was having this conversation with a guitarist recently. He had a few lame retorts, like "it's not that hard." Or, "it's just time keeping, there's no melody."

      I asked him if someone can throw a I, IV, V chord progression together, get someone else to write lyrics, and bring in a drummer and bass player, and without giving any direction to the rhythm section, claim he wrote the music. The conversation kind of petered out.

      But Neil, ultimately, accepted this arrangement.