The devastating news of the death of Rush drummer Neil Peart has sent shockwaves around the music world.
Universally loved and respected, there have already been many words posted about Neil but from two big Rush fans on the team, here’s our little tribute to a giant of a man and his band.
Rush have possibly been elevated to assume the mantle of being the band that everyone admires and respects. We all like a bit of Rush – and we don’t just mean fast-paced rock. I was first Rushified in the late seventies. The 12″ of Closer To The Heart opening a world that over the next four decades would take me and many others on a musical journey that would end in 2015 when the trio went out at the top, announcing their retirement from touring. No ‘comeback’ tours or cash spinning reunions; just a simple dignified announcement. Something that defined Neil Peart himself.
Neil the drummer who joined the band after the first album and essentially shaped the rest of Rush’s career. Not only in his outstanding skills and dedication to the art of drumming. A man who made the drum solo a veritable art. The precision in his playing and the dedication to the construction of his parts was second to none. As was also his immeasurable contribution to the band through his lyrics; often daring and bold, often profound and moving, but always to be pored over and digested.
He was a well-read scholar – just read the words to the songs and if you haven’t done so, check out his books. The articulate nature of his words fed from and into his life beyond music; travel and writing fuelling several tomes that reinforced his art as a writer.
No stranger to tragedy in his life, he was a private and humble man – all those who met him comment on his charm, good nature, and his humour. A life of love and respect. That was The Professor. Grace under pressure. We love you man.
Like many of my musical influences, they stem from my elders. The first time I heard of Rush as a band was through my uncle telling me about Exit…Stage Left. He always talked about seeing Rush and always told me about how Neil Peart was the greatest drummer ever.
“Look at the size of his drum kit…it goes all around him!” I was a keen devotee at the church of Eddie and Iron Maiden. I’d seen Nicko McBrain’s kit…I tried to joust with who had the bigger one! I know now, who had the bigger one.
Sadly, I only got to see Rush live once…in Manchester…on the Clockwork Angels tour. I went with my dad and we had some amazing seats. We were up close on Geddy Lee’s side of the stage but just a few feet away was Peart’s humongous kit. The whole night was amazing. The music. The power. The stage. The event. The atmosphere. I was Rushified. I truly understood why so many people were in love with this band.
As I had ‘got’ Rush I dug deeper into the catalogue. I moved beyond Moving Pictures, past 2112, through Permanent Waves…the albums that have those ‘bigger’ tracks on that hear more often than not. Tracks I’d heard on Exit…Stage Left. I got heavily into Power Windows…the bands 1985 effort. The Clockwork Angels set had plenty of choices from this album. It is my favourite Rush album.
Through taking in the length and breadth of Rush’s catalogue I noticed more and more the nuances that made this band great. Their sonic ability and their constant sonic evolution. A band that truly deserve the tag of being pioneers of sound.
Amongst all that though were Neil Peart’s lyrics; always epic and always as much a part of the Rush experience as any other element of the band.
It was an honour to see Neil Peart in the flesh along with his two band mates in 2013. The band went out at the top. No cash ins. No reunions. Just doing things the way Rush always did…marching to their own inimitably progressive and intricate beat.
The last song on 2012’s Clockwork Angels is The Garden. The lyrics are profound. They serve as a fitting epitaph.
Rest in peace, Neil. A true giant of music.
The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect
The way you live, the gifts that you give
In the fullness of time
It’s the only return that you expect
The future disappears into memoryRush – The Garden
With only a moment between
Forever dwells in that moment
Hope is what remains to be seen