How do I say goodbye to someone I never met, to someone who never even knew that I existed? If he had met me, I’m sure he would have been nice, cordial and polite. But friendly? Probably not. He was known to be a very private person. Someone who didn’t crave the spotlight, even though he was in it more than not.
When I read the news that Neil Peart, the lyricist and drummer for my all-time favorite band Rush, had passed away after a three year battle with brain cancer, the news hit me hard! Yes, even though we never actually met.
When I first got into Rush back in the late 70s (yes, I’m that old) I didn’t think through the reasons that Rush drew me in, I just knew I really liked their music and songs. Now, over 35 years later, I can easily give the reasons for my love of Rush. Great music! Lyrics that tell stories! And three men who never let fame make them seem untouchable or above everyone! They remained down to earth, real, and genuine.
When I think about the fact that Neil (even though we never met, I still feel that he and I were on a first name basis), who was very intelligent and creative, would have probably lost these qualities towards the end of the progression of his disease, it fills me with such sadness that it’s palpable!
Neil was the lyricist for Rush. And as I already said, their songs told stories. While the music was also something I enjoyed, for me the bigger draw to Rush was the lyrics of the songs. Probably because of my being a writer of sorts myself. Or was it the exposure to their lyrics (along with great literature) that made me into a writer? Either way, their influence has not gone unnoticed!
In addition to his gift with words, Neil was, hands down, one of the best drummers who ever lived! The highlight for many fans, myself included, when attending a concert was when the other members of the band: Geddy Lee (lead singer, bass and piano) and Alex Lifeson (backup vocals and guitar), would leave the stage and Neil would gift his fans with a 20 minute drum solo. And yes, it was a gift!!
Neil was truly a special person. He humbly dealt with fame. He also dealt with intense grief in his lifetime in a dignified and honorable manner. His only child had died in a single car crash, and just months later, his common-law wife passed away from breast cancer. After an extended hiatus, where Neil biked across Canada, down the west coast of the U.S. and into Central America to come to terms in his own private way with these losses, he came back and continued to create amazing songs and thrill his fans with his talents.
Now it is for us to honor this great man among men by showing him respect in a dignified and honorable way. Neil, you will be missed, both by those lucky enough to have truly gotten to know you, as well as those of us who wish we could have been that lucky! I hope that, up in heaven, you are flying by night, jamming away with Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, and speeding along a country road in a red Barchetta! Rest in peace, my “friend”.