We all have bad days. Some stick with us forever. Some bad days effect millions of people at the same time. When JFK, MLK, RFK, and John Lennon were taken, it was a series of collective bad days. People remember where they were when great people die. When Lennon was killed millions of Beatles fans were in collective mourning, they still are.
I will never forget Friday January 10th. It was like most Friday mornings until I got a text from a drummer friend of mine. It read, “Did you hear that Neil Peart died?”
At first, I thought he was kidding, really I was hoping he was kidding because my drummer friend and I kid around a lot in texts. But I knew as I re-read it that he would never joke about this, and my heart skipped several beats and then I went numb and got extremely sad. I couldn’t do anything after that and took the rest of the day off. That day is still with me and it always will be. Shame on every news channel that didn’t mention him in their end of year tributes to people that passed in 2020. Neil’s passing has profoundly affected millions of people all over the world, they are called Rush fans. A piece of them is missing, a hole is in their hearts, they mourn and grieve like they lost a father, a favorite uncle, a brother, a best friend, all for a person they never actually met. He was the best rock drummer ever, and in my book the best rock lyricist, he was a best-selling author, a nature lover, a family man, a quiet philanthropist, and a hero to millions.
Neil died as he lived, a modern-day warrior humble and powerful like a Jedi Knight transcending to the next dimension, with no fanfare. Only those closest to him even knew he was dying, and the news of his passing didn’t even make news until 3 days after he died on Jan 7th.
Let me start at the beginning. I grew up listening to Jim Croce’s Bad Bad Leroy Brown, and the Grease Soundtrack, Queen, The Bee Gees, and 80’s music starting with Michael Jackson to all the great 80’s Rock Bands, Def Leopard, Ratt, The Cars, Scorpions, we spent a lot of hours cruising the mean streets of our LA suburb to all that music.
Then after high school I bought the Rush Roll the Bones album, and I was beyond hooked. It was like the moment Neo in the Matrix choose the red pill. Within a year I bought all the albums and read all the lyrics and that’s all I wanted to listen to. Rush was in a league all their own, the music was wtf stellar and the words were mind bending and transformational. They didn’t sing about girls or money or trivial things, they swam in deep waters with universal themes, mythologies, uplifting the listener or the audience in a way that touches the soul and moves mountains.
My first Rush concert in 1992 was the deal sealer. To watch the trinity of heroes from those albums rip thru those incredible songs with such ease and joy, a sonic bath that you just can’t get enough of, and when Geddy said thank you very much goodnight, hope to see you again sometime, like he always did, you felt very fulfilled and yet overwhelmingly empty, sometimes sitting there even with janitors sweeping the aisles hoping for one more encore that was not to be. But you too had hope that you would see them again sometime sooner than later, and that hope was always there, like a little angel on your shoulder saying don’t worry you will get to see them again (now just on DVD’s but wow get them all).
Neil of course ran from the stage after each show. He would stand up and wave, and then he would book exit stage left. Later when I read his amazing books (get them all too folks) I learned it was because he didn’t do the backstage thing. He ran into his bus and left that arena before anyone could catch even a glimpse of him. The great Chinese philosopher Lao-Tsu said do the work until the work is done and then don’t stand over your work. That was Neil. He gave everything he did 110% but he didn’t look back or pound his chest, he always moved on to his next mission.
Critics, blah blah blah…Alex Lifeson summed it up in his epic Rock-n-Roll hall of fame speech consisting of only the word blah. The critics of the top music magazines never got or supported Rush (until they became mainstream). In fact, they went out of their way to try and destroy them. But Rush was not kidding when the said “Attention all planets of the solar federation, we have assumed control” at the end of the rock masterpiece 2112. What they assumed was control of their own destiny with that epic ground-breaking album. And they poured their hearts and souls into each song and every performance, and people that really listened to their music turned themselves into salesmen of Rush. That’s how they became one of the biggest touring acts in the history of music, it wasn’t because of radio play, or MTV, or Rolling Stone, it was because their fans were selling Rush to their friends. “Oh man you must listen to this”, 2112, Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, Signals, and so on. How many times has this happened? Millions of times all over the globe, and it’s still happening. “And it echoes with the sounds of salesmen, of salesmen, of salesmen.” Rush fans love Rush, and they are moved to tell everyone they know about it, so who needs critics when you have that? Art isn’t meant to be criticized anyway. It’s meant to be experienced. All those critics of Rush over the years, numbers don’t lie, and you are blah blah blah…
Most rock stars today will point to Rush, as a main influencer of them to pick up a bass or guitar or buy that 1st set of drums. Watch Beyond the Lighted Stage for just some examples of that. Neil’s passing has affected people in a way well beyond the normal passing of a star. I’m sure the tears shed for Neil would form a lake. Rush fans are all collectively mourning and missing the Professor. He was the best of the best, in all ways. I’m sure most of you have seen a version of the meme, if you are sad, remember the Earth has been here for billions of years, and you existed at the same time as Rush. The great thing is that Neil’s words and Rush’s music will live forever, and it will be treasured for as long as this earth spins with humans on it.
Anonymous – 2021 – January 7th – MD Reader & Rush Fan