On January 7, 2020, Neil Peart passed away at the age of 67.
(Photo: Rush Facebook page)
After his death, David Bar-Tal wrote these words to his childhood hero - the greatest drummer of our generation:
"Suddenly You Were Gone ... From All The Lives You Left Your Mark Upon ...".
These moving words were written by Neil Peart about the loss of a loved one. It is simply not perceived, but today they are already taking on a different meaning.
Some of you may be surprised, but I'm not the type of person who tends to share personal things on various social media, not in pictures and certainly not in words. You have probably also noticed that even the reviews we write on the "Face/Off" page are intentionally in the plural and few are the cases where we have come down to personal resolution. However, last night upon receiving the news of Neil Peart's death, my heart was simply torn and the feelings led me to go out of my way and write a few personal heartfelt things about the man and the legend.
This man, his lyrics, and his ingenious drumming, accompanied me through some of the good and bad times in my life. You could say Neil has been writing the timeline of my life since I was eleven years old. Countless memories, happy and pleasant moments alongside uneasy challenges and sad moments, were woven together with the lyrics he wrote and with his unique drumming style.
Neil was an introverted, shy, and humble man, but most of all he was a perfectionist who always strived for perfection. When he felt he could not give 100% of himself, he decided to retire from the music life, rather than compromise and give 90% of his abilities in playing "almost accurate" or choosing a "less challenging" setlist of songs.
He did so for the first time in August 1997, after his daughter, Selena was killed when she was just 19, and ten months later his partner Jacqueline died of cancer, and he did so again in 2015 following arthritis he suffered from.
Neil feared becoming one of the protagonists from the moving song he wrote for the 1982 album "Signals" "Losing It". The song tells the story of artists who "lose it" and are no longer at their peak. Talented people who were at the pinnacle of success and at the end of their days are at their low point, so he made a difficult and painful choice to end his career at its peak.
Neil Peart's aspiration for perfection is so characteristic of him that in the late 1990s, when it was already clear to everyone that he was one of the greatest drummers in the world, he chose to take lessons from the renowned drummer Freddie Gruber and further specialize in mastering the instrument he loved so much. How many such artists do you already know?
These unique qualities of Neil, not only changed me musically, but they simply shaped me and encouraged me to research, explore and think outside the box.
His lyrics made me read Ayn Rand's works ("2112"), take an interest in Greek mythology ("Hemispheres"), research about Samuel Taylor Coleridge who wrote the poem "Kubla Khan" ("Xanadu"), and finds out who is John Dos Passos, Who wrote the USA trilogy on which "The Big Money" is based on. The lofty words he used and his rich writing often forced me to listen to music with a dictionary to understand words like "soliloquy," which years later my American-born friends would admit they don't know what the word means.
My first encounter with "Rush" was somewhere in the early 1980s, when my cousin came from America with a cassette tape of the live album "All the World's a Stage", which the band released in 1976.
My cousin, who during his childhood lived in Willowdale (the neighborhood in Toronto where the members of "Rush" grew up), chose to open the impromptu "Rush" acquaintance meeting with Neil Peart's drum solo, which comes during the mini medley "Working Man/Finding My Way" - located somewhere on the fourth side of the same live double-album.
It was a love of first hearing. From the moment I listened to this drum solo, it was clear to me that there was an unusually talented and special person behind it and I did not need Geddy Lee's introduction before the solo to understand that Neil is definitely a professor: "... Ladies and Gentlemen, The Professor on The Drumkit"
For hours on, I listened to this drum solo on repeat, analyzing every pass, every snare blow, every dribble, and every tap on the “cow bell” that was perfectly synchronized with the bass drum. Neil Peart managed not to bore the listener even for one second with a drum solo. It was sweeping, fun, and exciting, it made the drums sound like a song played by an entire band. Just a school for drummers. It's not for nothing that another great drummer of our generation Mike Portnoy called him "my God." Not for nothing did he claim that his life was divided into two, before he knew Neil Peart and after.
Now be honest, with how many bands in your life you fell in love with through a drum solo and not through a song?
It just defines who Neil Peart was for me and many others. A drummer who in his exemplary silence and modesty swept away an entire generation of drummers who wanted to be like him, who made thousands of fans wave their hands in the air during his live shows with the "Air Drumming" and prefer it over the cooler "Air Guitar", a man who always challenged himself in reading, learning, writing, playing complex rhythms, unconventional time signatures and with a varied and extensive range of percussion, thus forcing us to challenge ourselves as well, to think deeper and farther.
Neil turned the drums into an instrument that leads the song, which goes beyond the traditional role upon which the rhythm section is built upon. For example, the instrumental track "YYZ" is based on a Morse code that makes up the letters Y-Y-Z, where the lines (-) and dots (.) Are played on drums in a different number of notes and in unusual time signatures that lead the guitar, bass, and keyboards after them and not the other way around.
Anyone who reads these lines and is not a "Rush Fanatic" will not understand this, but last Tuesday, not only did we lose our hero, we lost the man who helped shape our lives. Peart wrote the words: "Some Are Born to move the world…" and he is without a doubt one of those who managed to influence the world with their presence.
Neil also wrote and rightly so: "Sadder still to watch it die Than never to have known it ...", the pain that accompanies the loss of someone dear is unbearable, but it is still better to know and lose than not to know at all ....
I feel lucky that I knew and got to see you "in action" four times over the years, the last of them during the "R40" tour where you played "Losing It" for the first time live, as if you wanted to share your feelings with us and tell us what really goes through your mind.
Goodbye Professor, even though we never got to meet in person, thank you for all the years of wonderful friendships and great music...
"Dancing fires on the beach Singing songs together Though it's just a memory Some memories last forever" — "Lakeside Park"
And this time we leave you with a "special" in honor of Neil Peart, which was broadcast by David Bar-Tal and Eran Har-Paz on "Ze Rock" radio: Click here.