I think it goes without saying that Neil Peart is one of the most influential drummers of the 20th century. Like the Buddy Rich of rock and roll, he figured out how to combine technique and spectacle in a way that was rarely rivaled, all with a professorial demeanor.
Neil’s mastery on the drums was only one facet of his brilliance. He was also the primary lyricist of Rush, a band that was well known for its literate and eloquent lyrics. He was an accomplished writer, teacher, and so many other things.
We at Proglodytes love Rush and will deeply miss Neil Peart. Here is our tribute.
The world is full of amazing drummers. In the early 70s, the music world was full of them. But there was something magical about Neil’s drumming. It didn’t just impress or dazzle the listener like so many of the greats. It made something in millions of young blossoming artists say: “I want to play like him”. It had some ineffable quality, a spark, that would make the listener want to run over to the nearest drumset and try it. His playing was inspired. And his playing has inspired, and will continue to inspire, musicians all over the world in this same way.
Some of the greatest modern drummers claim Neil as their primary inspiration. As Dave Grohl said to Rolling Stone a few years ago, ” I heard the drums. It made me want to become a drummer”. He was the bar, the gold standard, he was the guy. If you wanted to impress your musician friends, you learned literally ANY Rush tune on the drums.
As a young drummer, Neil was my guide. I remember first hearing “Subdivisions” as a teenager and deciding to play it every day until I learned every one of Neil’s hits and fills. It might be one of the songs that I’ve heard the most, because it took me several months. I don’t think I ever completely hit it note for note, but it was a masterclass in itself in how to play with elegance, technique, and flare. And there are so many examples like this of his exceptional drumming- “YYZ”, “La Villa Strangiato”, “Limelight”, “Spirit of Radio”, not to mention the legendary “Tom Sawyer”, which might feature one of the most well known drum solos ever featured in a rock song.
It can truly be said of Neil, without hyperbole, that he was one of the most important drummers of all time- a genius, an innovator, a trailblazer. Rest In Peace.
When I was 17 years old, I was a total metal-head. Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies, Pantera, Slayer… these were the bands that got my blood pumping. Then, a casual acquaintance asked me to listen to his favorite band, Rush. I was somewhat familiar with tunes like “Red Barchetta” and “Tom Sawyer” and liked them well enough, but not enough to really seek out more from the band.
I’ll never forget the experience. He played a live version of “Mystic Rhythms”. “Who’s that drummer?” I asked, “he’s incredible!” And thus I was properly introduced to Neil Peart. In the many years that have since passed, I have listened to hours upon hours of Rush, listening primarily to Neil’s incredible grooves, fills brimming with a musicality that most drummers can only aspire to, and his intriguing lyrics. “When we burn our wings, flying too close to the sun; when the moment of glory is over before it’s begun…”
When it came time to introduce my sons (4 of them) to “proper” music, I took them to a Rush concert. When each new son turned 8 years old, we went to a Rush concert. Adding in the concerts I’ve attended by myself or with friends, I have seen Rush more than any other band live. Neil Peart provided the rhythm to soundtrack of my life as a teen, a young father, and a middle-aged man. I feel his passing deeply. He was the greatest rock drummer of all time.
Neil, I know you were not a believer in a hereafter, but I sincerely hope you were mistaken and that you find yourself hanging out with the other greats that we’ve lost – playing in the eternal limelight.
Chuck (Trendkill Radio)
1983. I was in a band called Necromancer. We were apparently named after a tune from Caress of Steel. Which was my first exposure to Rush. I liked them, but didn’t love them fast forward to 1985. My buddy Steve and I were driving around in his Dodge Dart. He popped in a cassette and a tune played that made my jaw drop. It was Red Barchetta. I went back and dig into 2112 and Permanent Waves. Then Signals came out and I was all in. I think the “keyboard-y” era is my favorite.
I honestly don’t remember my first Rush experience. I suspect it was Permanent Waves in the early 80’s. I remember “The Spirit of Radio” smacking me right upside the head. And I had the same thought everyone else had: “Jesus! That drummer is INCREDIBLE!” The name Neil Peart was quickly burned into my head.
I saw them for the first time on the Grace Under Pressure tour. Gobsmacked doesn’t begin to describe it. I saw them twice more over the years. I thought I was done with Rush until the Rio DVD, and then I was born again. I was on board until the very end.
I didn’t think something like Neil’s passing would hit me so hard. Yet here I am, typing through tears.
Thank you, Neil.
Rest in Peace, Professor.