Remembering Neil Peart: The Professor, The Drummer, The Musician

Today the world learned of the passing of musical legend Neil Peart, the drummer for the quintessential band Rush. Like many high-school aged youth who took up drums I was introduced to Rush and Neil Peart's drumming via other drummers. His drumming is legendary in its precision and craftsmanship, so much so that I have gone on about is influence on my drumming in other posts. Similarly his lyrics for Rush were the fourth member of the band. Skillful, playful, and introspective, they painted pictures that complemented the exceptional music that Alex, Geddy, and Neil created. Growing up I always hoped I would eventually meet Neil so I could tell him how much his music and lyrics meant to me, but later I realized that true fans of Neil would do best to not engage Neil in idle chatter and banter. Neil was very private, and hated being made uncomfortable by fans. He rarely gave interviews, and jealously guarded his privacy. When travelling between shows he would ride on a motorcycle in an entourage through the less-traveled parts of the world. During the off-hours of touring Neil would read books. He spent his life perfecting his craft. When he thought had plateaued with his playing he took lessons to improve his playing. He connected with the fans through his writing, both through his books and the concert programs. Neil was not just another drummer, but a drummer's drummer. He worked hard, and gave his all to his craft.

When Neil retired there were a lot of folks who wondered when Rush would reform. I wondered as well, but I knew the truth: Neil would never play with Rush again. His was not the type to do anything by half, and if his performance wasn't up to par he would never consider it.

I'm sad, but not for the loss of a great musician. Neil's musical legacy will live on both in the albums that Rush released and in the musicians he influenced. I'm sad because Neil was a large part of my life growing up. His example of workmanship was exemplary. His commitment to craft was a model that I still strive to achieve. His generosity and kindness were never overshadowed by being a big rock dude, even though he could have easily taken that path. I'm sad that we won't continue to grow older together, and I'm sad that Neil's family, bandmates, and fans now have to consider a life without Neil Peart. Even at his most private, he was still a major force.

Many folks will quote the song "Afterimage" and the lyric "Suddenly you were gone, from all the lives you left your mark upon". I choose to go deeper and quote him with the song "Faithless": "But I still cling to hope And I believe in love And that's faith enough for me."

Here's to future journeys on roads untravelled, Professor. Thank you for letting us all be a part of your journey here.


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