Neil Peart the drummer/lyricist from Rush died this week from brain cancer. He was only 67 years old. Here’s the announcement of his death along with a statement from his bandmates:

Rush was loved by musicians as well as fans so quite a few have been reacting to Peart’s loss on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/KirkHammett/status/1215756298811166720

Dave Grohl, the Nirvana drummer who inducted Rush into the Rock Hall of Fame, gave a statement to Rolling Stone:

“Today, the world lost a true giant in the history of rock & roll,” Grohl said in a statement to Rolling Stone“An inspiration to millions with an unmistakable sound who spawned generations of musicians (like myself) to pick up two sticks and chase a dream. A kind, thoughtful, brilliant man who ruled our radios and turntables not only with his drumming, but also his beautiful words.”

Grohl continued, “I still vividly remember my first listen of 2112 when I was young. It was the first time I really listened to a drummer. And since that day, music has never been the same. His power, precision, and composition was incomparable. He was called ‘The Professor’ for a reason: We all learned from him.”

There are thousands of people writing about their love for Neil’s drumming and lyrics. I’m one of his long time fans. There aren’t many bands where I have a clear memory of the first time I heard them but Rush is one of the clearest. It was 1981 and after school a friend asked me if I’d heard Rush. I said no and he invited me to his house to listen. He had a room upstairs where his stereo was set up. As I recall it wasn’t a bedroom, it was like a listening room. He put on the first track of Moving Pictures, a song called Tom Sawyer, and he played it so loud that I flinched a bit. I wanted to ask him to turn it down but I knew that wasn’t cool so I just listened. By the end of that one song I was hooked.

I quickly bought Moving Pictures and then most of the previous albums. By the time Signals came out in 1982 I was a die-hard fan and in 1984 I went to see them in concert for the first time. I don’t think I could add up how many hours I spent listening to Rush in high school, certainly far more than I spent doing homework. Looking back, I would lie on the floor at the end of my bed listening and after I bought a guitar for $50, I spent even more time learning to play along.

In college I joined a band and my best friend was the drummer. He considered Neil Peart the greatest drummer of all time. Again, I can’t begin to count the hours spent trying to play their songs and, often, laughing when it fell apart because the parts were hard! When we could kinda-sort of make it through YYZ or one of the other songs we loved it felt incredible, like we’d climbed a mountain.

I listened to 1,000 other bands and there were times I got tired of Rush. Like a lot of fans, I wasn’t as big a fan of their later albums as the stuff through the mid-80s. Still, as I got older I always came back to the band. I had all the vinyl and then I bought everything again on CDs and then transferred it all to mp3s. When I eventually got a car that could play mp3s, I found myself listening to Rush again when doing errands or taking kids around town. And after I moved to California I made new friends who were also Rush fans. I saw the band live three times in the past decade, including their second to last show ever.

The story at the time was that Neil in particular didn’t feel he could go on. He was getting older. His drum parts were demanding and tough on his body. He wanted to go out on top, not be someone that people would look at and think “He’s not as good as he used to be.” So I understood why the show had to end and I respected Neil’s reasons, but it felt like a lot more than the end of a band. I got to hear them play one of my favorite, non-radio friendly Rush songs (Natural Science) the last time they ever played it. It was great but also a little sad. But even if Rush wasn’t touring anymore, at least you knew those guys were still out there doing things, writing books, designing amps, etc. Until this week.

I said on Twitter that I can probably recite the lyrics from 30 Rush songs off the top of my head. All of that came from one guy who died way too young earlier this week. I’m going to make a donation to a cancer charity in Neil Peart’s name. Hopefully a day is coming when glioblastoma is survivable but we’re not there yet.

And there’s no other way to end this than with some of Rush’s music.

Tags: cancer music