A Tribute to Neil Peart, the “Professor.”
Earlier today, I watched some Rush and Neil Peart videos. Then I dozed off on the couch for an afternoon nap. I heard my phone text notification ding… and then ding again… and again. Someone was blowing up my phone. It was a combination of several text messages and Facebook messages. Several friends were telling me the news: Neil Peart died. My friends know how much of a fan I am. He was 67 years old.
Here’s the weird part… Just a couple of hours prior, before I dozed off, I was indulging in some Neil Peart videos, which I had not done in a while.
I’ve liked plenty of other bands over my life. But, Rush is the one that truly resonated with me. The music. The lyrics. The members’ personalities. I felt connected to them on a philosophical, if not spiritual, level. I did not know Neil was sick. It turns out he had been battling glioblastoma (an aggressive and incurable brain cancer) for three years. But, some “cosmic connection” must have compelled me to listen to Neil’s percussive magic earlier today.
I first learned about Rush in college from a friend, with the album, “Moving Pictures.”
If I could pick a soundtrack for my life, it would be Rush. I’ve often described Rush as “rock for intellectuals.” If you’ve attended a Rush concert, you’d agree it’s a “nerd-fest.”
The depth of the talent of all three members of Rush is stunning. If you’ve seen the documentary, “Beyond the Lighted Stage,” you’ll remember all the OTHER musicians interviewed… looked up to Rush as the “gods.” They are the musicians’ musicians. What are the chances of THREE virtuosos coming together in ONE band?
Neil was a poet, who wrote most of the lyrics for Rush. A voracious reader, he was also a prolific author of many books. Of the three band members, he was the most private, who rarely gave interviews or attended fan events. Alex and Geddy were the “PR” guys. Neil kept to himself.
Neil incorporated a lot of different styles in his performances, but Jazz was a major inspiration for him. He was a big fan of Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. He performed at a Buddy Rich tribute with Buddy Rich’s band. Watch the video and be blown away at his talent that went beyond the world of Progressive Rock. There is a reason he was nicknamed, “The Professor.” His solo starts at about 3:50. Watch the reactions of the band members behind him at about 5:40.
His concert drum solos were legendary and considered by many to be the highlight of the event. Here is a solo performance in Frankfurt. If’ you’ve never seen him before, prepare to pick your jaw up off the floor.
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite song. There are so many. But, I’ll pick two. First, it’s “YYZ” performed live in Rio (Brazil). Watch the audience. They bounce in unison to the beat. Then listen to them SING ALONG to an INSTRUMENTAL song. They’re singing Alex’s guitar riffs!
Next is a lesser known song, “Marathon.” This video is just the “drum cam.” Some crazy complex fills and flurries. The break starts at 3:00. Then with the transition to Alex on guitar, Neil goes into BEAST MODE at 3:45. Holy crap. Just fucking amazing. Annoying ads pop up during the video. Just click the “skip” button. Still worth watching!
I’m pretty sure Neil Peart was an alien. His talents were super-human. He was not of this Earth. But, he’ll be missed, and he’s left a big hole in the music world. Damn. One of my most admired people is gone. Rush was MY band.
OK… ONE more. 😀 This live performance in their hometown of Toronto gives me goosebumps. “Spirit of Radio” with a “Paint It Black” nod to the Rolling Stones intro. Look at the size of the crowd… as far as the eye can see!
OK… just ONE more. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the classic “Tom Sawyer.” Here’s a drum cam of Neil performing the song, live in Rio. I think that ultimately, Neil Peart was the embodiment of the concept of reaching the pinnacle of your craft through intense focus. Nobody has done anything better than Neil did the drums.
Ah, fuck it… I can’t stop. I think this song, “La Villa Strangiato” is the most epic instrumental song by Rush. The composition of the many movements in this song is just stunning. Even Geddy said, “That was a song where I would have to say our ideas exceeded our ability to play them.” The “tight” play between Geddy, Alex and Neil in such a long song blows my mind. Watch this! Worth every minute. The song takes you on a journey.
And, finally… a very rare interview with “The Professor.” Just a cool and very introspective cat.