Neil Peart: Exit Stage Left

Neil Peart

I, along with probably every Rush fan, am still in shock over the news of Neil Peart’s death. (Neil Peart, Rush Drummer Who Set a New Standard for Rock Virtuosity, Dead at 67.) I decided to spend the night with Rush, so spent the evening re-watching the documentary, Rush – Beyond The Lighted Stage. I’ve been amazed all over again about how astonishingly good he was.

Why was he so good? Because he never rested on his laurels, he never stopped learning. In the documentary that accompanied Rush In Rio, his bandmates talk about how he did a twenty minute warm up… before a sound check! One of my favourite sections from Beyond The Lighted Stage describes the lessons he had with Freddie Gruber. This happened some time in the Nineties when Neil was thirty-something, had already won umpteen awards and was arguably at the top of his game… and what did he do? He went back to school. He described what he learned from Freddie as follows: “It’s not just the hit… but the motions between.” He didn’t just play the drums, he danced with them! And Rush fans danced with him.

The first Rush track I fell in love with was “Closer To The Heart”. Neil’s drumming is, of course, outstanding but the lyrics say more about him than I ever could:

The blacksmith and the artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the heart

A craftsman; an artist… and always writing and playing from the heart.

I hope it is not wrong to end with the following:

How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?

Ten. One to change it and nine to talk about how Neil Peart would have done it better.

Header image by Enrico Frangi

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