Family and friends of Neil Peart announced the death of the former Rush drummer, who died of brain cancer on Tuesday at the age of 67. Neil, called “the Professor” by bandmates and fans, Peart’s virtuoso skill behind the kit redefined our understanding of the instrument in a level comparable to Hendrix on guitar, Coltrane on sax, or Entwistle or McCartney on bass.
This wasn’t the post I planned to write today, obviously. I had planned to write the closing recap of my NYC trip this afternoon, and probably will still do that later. However, Peart’s work as a drummer — and as a lyricist, where he cleared a path for thoughtful, mature lyrics in hard rock — demand attention. So I’ll close this with a couple of thoughts.
When I’m teaching Brit Lit, there are certain writers — most notably Milton and Wordsworth — who change the nature of the game. The writers who come after may try to continue what those people have done, or in rare cases, to extend that. Or they may try to rebel against it, to take some sort of Oedipus-via-Harold-Bloom contrary position. But what they do is influenced by those gamechangers, in one direction or the other. Neil Peart was such an artist.
My second point is something I heard many years ago, when someone was talking about great quarterbacks. It was said that people would sometimes compare a Joe Montana or Tom Brady to Johnny Unitas. But no one ever compared Unitas to anyone else. This is true of Peart as well.
So long, Neil. Thanks for a lot of the soundtrack of my teens, and for what you did for the music I love.
This track is not an example of Peart in full flight — but it’s a favorite of mine because it shows him driving a band, and because I’ve always liked the lyrics.
See you soon.