Neil Peart, 1952–2020

Today I learned of the passing of Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist of the Canadian rock band Rush. As an almost ten-year fan of his incredible work, I feel shock, sympathy for his friends and family, and sadness. Rush is my greatest musical inspiration, and my dearest musical companion, and the loss of one of its three members hits me hard.

I don’t know a thing about drumming, so I can’t say much about Neil’s percussive prowess beyond “it’s just incredible”. I’ll leave it to the countless “Top 10 Rock Drummers” lists to go into greater detail. As for his writing, well, to say that he was fiercely intelligent would be an understatement. His mind was both uniquely creative and deeply analytical, and those qualities worked in tandem throughout his career. He could dive into virtually any subject, make profound observations, and extract poetic beauty from them. Much of that beauty was then further refined in collaboration with vocalist Geddy Lee, to serve as the lyrics for 18 of Rush’s 19 studio albums.

Embedded above is my favorite Rush song, “Subdivisions”. It is layers upon layers of musical genius, and I like to think that Neil’s contributions constitute the top and bottom layers. At the top are his lyrics, the semantic meaning of the song, and at the bottom are his drums, the momentum that drives that meaning, as well as the musical meaning, forward. I’ve always been deeply moved by the lyrics of “Subdivisions”, but never paid much attention to the drumming in isolation, so today, I did that for the first time. And well, like I so eloquently put it earlier, it’s just incredible.

Rest in peace, Neil.


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