This morning's post is by way of a eulogy for Neil Peart, late drummer and lyricist for Canadian rock band Rush. He died of brain cancer a few days ago.
It's almost impossible to praise too highly Peart's contribution to rock music, and the role of percussion instruments in that genre. He won no less than 38 awards from Modern Drummer magazine. He won the "Best Rock Drummer" award every year from 1980-1986, and had to be taken off the nominee list and given his own emeritus mention, just so that others could have a chance at the title! In his obituary, the magazine writes:
In 1983, at the age of thirty, Peart became the youngest drummer to be inducted into the Modern Drummer Readers Poll Hall of Fame. And in 2014, MD’s readers ranked Peart third best among the top fifty greatest drummers of all time—behind only Buddy Rich and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham ... And while Peart didn’t invent the rock drum solo, he certainly refined and expanded the art over the years touring with Rush. Devotees pore over the evolution of “the Professor”’s elaborate live drum setups. And even those who’ve never sat down at a kit found themselves air-drumming to Peart’s parts.
There are several video clips of Peart's drum solos on YouTube. I've chosen this one for its clarity, length, and the quality of the virtuoso talent he displayed.
And, to illustrate how he bound the band's playing together and gave it depth, rhythm and focus, here's an introduction to a live performance from the band that includes a lot of improvisation. Notice how Peart picks up what each player is doing, and adjusts his rhythm and syncopation to match it and even lead it. It's sheer musical genius, in its own way.
Neil Peart went through more than his fair share of tragedy in his life, including the death of his daughter in a car accident and the loss of his first wife to cancer. He found new happiness in his second marriage, until brain cancer terminated his musical career, and Rush's, far too soon.
He leaves his wife and a ten-year-old daughter. May they be comforted in their loss, and may Neil Peart rest in peace. He'll be remembered as long as rock has a place in the musical pantheon. Other rockers may aspire to equal his percussion genius, but I don't think anyone will ever surpass him.