The news was released today that my hero had died on Tuesday, after a battle with brain cancer. Neil Peart, arguably the most talented drummer, and lyricist to ever walk the earth in the entirety of human history succumbed to his illness. The news did not break until Jan 10th, which to the millions of his fans came as no surprise. He died in the way he lived, quietly, privately, and without the fanfare we would all like to give him. Despite his rather quiet nature, he did author 6 books that were a glimpse into his life, his process, his pain, and his deeply introspective nature.
My mother is probably the biggest Rush fan that has ever lived. I am almost positive she was singing Fly By Night to me as a lullaby the instant I was born. As such, I don't remember a time that I didn't know pretty much every lyric to a Rush song, the majority of which were written by Neil Peart. When I was in high school my mom took me to see Rush, during the Vapor Trails tour, a gentleman next to me loved seeing me a young person there so much he went out and bought me a copy of Ghost Rider. Not the first book that was written by Peart, but the first I had ever heard of, and I read it cover to cover that very night. It was soul-wrenching, and it gutted me several times. The death of his daughter and his wife, within a year of each other and his subsequent motorcycle trip.
I understood as I read the book, that the smile I had seen flash across his face at the show, had been significant. He was not a man who smiled often. He was not a man who was caught laughing on camera, but that does not mean he was without humor. When Rush was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he made a charming and funny speech, quoting Bob Dylan. He spoke of families, of love, and of connection. He also patiently let Alex Lifeson make a fool of himself.
With over 19 studio albums, released between 1974 and 2012, plus a myriad of live albums, and compilations. Neil Peart has left a mark on music, on writers like me, and on the collective soul of our species. He proved that through hard work, imagination, good books, and music, that we can overcome the obstacles that inhibit us, and make something timeless. He lived to inspire others to create, to bring life to others through their craft. He spent his life sitting behind a massive drum set, listening to someone else sing the words he wrote, because he wanted only to be the inspiration, never the idol. I am not sure that a person like him has ever existed, but I am sure that there will be none like him again. It would be impossible to tell you how Neil Peart influenced me personally. It would be like asking me how my parent's influenced me. Just like them, he has been there my whole life, and I can see him in almost everything I do. And now, like my father, he is lost to me.
Neil Peart was a legend and a master of his many crafts, and while I am glad that tonight I can listen to his magic, and feel the beat of his drums echoing in my chest, I also weep, for what the world has lost. I will never take my daughter to a Rush concert. She will never know what it's like to see him smile in person. It feels like watching the Mona Lisa, or Prima Vera, or the entire Louvre Museum burn. It feels like losing something crucial to human development. This loss is as insurmountable as the Library of Alexandria.