I was about thirteen when the sound of drums became the backdrop of my adolescence in the house I grew up in. Between church youth groups and cheerleading practice and Friday night football games, I heard, almost constantly, the banging of drums, snares, tom toms, high hats, and cymbals.
Why? Because my little brother was learning to play “the set.”
Eye-rolls and heaving hearts were steady reactions from my parents, but me, I loved the noise. To me it was life — edge-y and cool.
This was a new sound I was hearing from my brother’s turntable. It wasn’t the juvenile reliability of Kiss or the pop sweetness of Michael Jackson.
This was something different: the syncopated rhythms and heady weirdness of Rush. To a kid who already felt a little weird, it fit. My ears became attuned to the drum tracks on “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit of Radio,” and later on “Limelight.” and they became as significant as the melody. I loved Geddy’s twangy, gratingly-appealing vocals. I wondered how so much sound could come out of three guys. When I eventually saw them 28 years later on tour, I saw and heard for myself.
And that was when I got to see, up close and personal, the real genius of “Neil.”
Few articles written about Rush do not mention Neil’s God-like status as a supreme drummer, in a class by himself. Every concert Rush played had a room or stadium full of air drummers.
I didn’t know much about this man’s personal life. I had never read any of his many books, but I’d heard that Neil suffered inconceivable tragedies, his wife and daughter each dying in a short time frame, which set him on a path to leave the band and retreat out into the wilderness on a spiritual quest, like a holy motorcycle crusader out to challenge God.
If they need a drummer in Heaven, God made the obvious choice.
So now, let the cosmic tour begin.
RIP Neil Peart
“The world is, the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his eyes are wide.”
From “Tom Sawyer”