Remembering legendary drummer and rock icon Neil Peart

Parker Dorsey, News Editor

Neil Peart, world-renowned legendary drummer for Canadian rock band Rush, passed away Jan. 7 after a three and a half year battle with glioblastoma. He left behind a musical legacy that spanned over 40 years.

I was lucky enough to see Rush perform live one time in my life: June 21, 2013. It was during my sophomore year of high school and they were playing at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA during the eastern United States leg of their Clockwork Angels Tour. Almost 8,000 people were in attendance.

In middle school and high school I always went to concerts with my dad. We saw bands like Black Sabbath, Van Halen, the Scorpions, Judas Priest, you name it. But for me, Rush was always the most special one. Fourteen-year-old me was so giddy to finally get the chance to see the band I spent my whole childhood listening to. It is a memory I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

Peart was infamous for his extensive drumkit, containing over 40 different pieces and spanning a full 360 degrees. He drew his influences from English drummers like John Bonham and Keith Moon, to jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and Billy Cobham. To his many adoring fans, Peart was known as simply “The Professor,” and one of the most technically proficient drummers in the world.

His work was far more than just his drumming, he was responsible for the vast majority of Rush’s lyrical content as well. Literature was a big influence on his writing, with much of his early material focusing on fantasy, science fiction and philosophical themes.

For example, the legendary 20-minute epic “2112” focuses on the struggle of an individual against the collectivist forces of a totalitarian state. However, this song received unexpected backlash when it was released in 1976 due to Peart dedicating the song to Ayn Rand in the liner notes (in part due to his subscription of Rand’s objectivism.)

From Permanent Waves onward, most of Peart’s lyrics began to revolve around social, emotional and humanitarian issues, employing a heavy use of metaphors and symbolism.

In 1997, Peart’s first daughter Selena Taylor was killed in a single-car accident in Ontario. His wife Jacqueline Taylor then passed away from cancer 10 months later. Peart took a long sabbatical to mourn and reflect, effectively retiring from the band for a time, and covered over 55,000 miles throughout North and Central America on his motorcycle during this journey.

His legacy is more than one of books, albums or performances. Though he lived a private life, he shared his heartache and exhilarated us with the many hundreds of live performances he took part in.

It’s one thing to have heroes who lived in an age gone by, poets and philosophers from decades or centuries or millennia past; but it’s something special to have a hero, living and breathing, who helps make the world make a little more sense to a young mind.

A younger version of me relied heavily on the wisdom provided by Peart, so openly and courageously sharing his burdens and joys with the world through the music and lyrics as well as his books.

When I served pizza at Antonio’s and did HVAC for PLD, on my days off I’d learn how to program. I’d learn how to design; how to create; how to write. I was determined to make my way in this world. I still rely on them.

It’s so strange to feel so impacted by the death of a stranger. Thank you so much for your lyrics and your wisdom, Peart.

“The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect, so hard to earn, so easily burned.

In the fullness of time, a garden to nurture and protect. The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect, the way you live and the gifts that you give. And the fullness of time, is the only return that they expect,” said the lyrics from “The Garden,” Rush’s swansong.

He was a poet and a thinker, and his work saved many lives throughout the years. My heart hurts with this one.