As I sit here grappling with the sad passing of Neil Peart, commonly known for good reason as the legendary drummer and lyricist of the Canadian rock trio Rush, I am less distressed than I started out and have become more reflective. Along with millions of other fans around the world, I cried loudly in the first few hours after hearing the news of his death. It hurts a lot, but the tears have subsided.
Rush has played such an important role in my life that it’s impossible to imagine my world without these three guys. My first exposure to their music was sneaking My Sister’s Archives album from her record collection. I was looking at their photos and reading the cover notes while listening to the amazing music from this compilation of their first three records: Rush, Fly By Night and Caress of Steel. I was eleven years old. The following year, 1979, after the release of their fourth album, Hemispheres, my uncle took my sister and I to see them at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ. A cooler thing couldn’t have happened to a twelve year old kid.
Although sometimes complex, the ideas presented in their songs fascinated my young mind and made me think about things differently. Rush were very positive mentors to a young boy struggling with feelings of alienation, being “different” and schoolyard bullies. They brought me hope. Just knowing these three guys were there made me feel better. Their songs lift me to this day.
Their music holds a charge and the lyrics are beyond thought; they develop. Rush told us that it’s okay to care, love, be afraid, marvel, and be different. They made us think and feel. In the song Vital Signs, they told us it was imperative: “Everyone has to deviate from the norm.”
With eleven Rush gigs under my belt, I’m way below average for many die-hard fans, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t made an impact. Rush has had more of an impact on my life than any other band, musically and philosophically.
When I think about it, the reason I am so saddened by the passing of Neil Peart is the very reason that I am so inspired to keep going and become better than the man I was yesterday. Many of us have been immeasurably influenced by the words of Neil Peart and his life. He told us, and even showed us, how important it is to fill our “box cars” with experiences and wonder. As my train rolls on the tracks of life, I will charge them more than ever.
There will be no more shows. No more albums. Rush is forever in our memories and in our ears. The last show my wife and I attended was on August 10, 2015, in the second row of the R40 show in Philadelphia, 36 years after my first gig, and the year they announced it would be their last tour. Fans were hoping there would be at least one more album, but that was the end of it. Four and a half years later, Neil Peart is gone.
I often thought about what I would say if I ever met Neil somewhere on his travels. She was a private person, discouraged and embarrassed by adulation. I figured if I ever met him I would just say thank you. The same goes for Alex and Geddy, just a thank you and a handshake. Maybe a selfie.
So there is only one thing to say now: Rest in peace Neil Peart, and thank you.