This afternoon I was on Twitter and noticed a post of Neil Peart playing drums on Letterman. I remembered that episode well. Back in 2011 Letterman did a drummer’s week of sorts and had all these bad ass drummers (I believe Shiela E was on as well). I re-tweeted it and then posted it on my Facebook because let’s be honest here, Peart changed the face of drumming and lyric writing (in my humble opinion). Just after I hit post, I thought, “Oh… wait…” and I refreshed my phone.
Miles and I both jumped up off the couch, screaming, “NO!”
The Professor, the ever-mysterious yet masterful legend had died from glioblastoma four days ago.
The passing of rock legends is different for everyone.
I can remember when Cobain committed suicide, as well as the deaths of Layne Stayley, Chris Cornell, Andrew Wood, David Bowie and most recently, Mac Miller. I can also recall my parents talking about where they were when Lennon was shot and when John Bonham died. It’s a bizarre right of passage to share these memories and/or stories with friends or even the internet as a whole.
Yet, here I am, recounting my own stories of Rush.
My Uncle claims that he is the reason I am such a huge fan, as he liked to listen to their records in my grandparents’ basement with his buddies when I was little. I have an old boyfriend who solidified my obsession with Rush in the mid-nineties too. I can remember lazy Sunday afternoons listening to Counterparts while napping on his couch after church. He’d explain Peart’s drumming to me and we’d argue over which album was the greatest of all time (In case you’re wondering, for me it’s Roll The Bones). My friends, who at the time were all musicians of some sort, were also mega fans and we’d just sit around listening to Rush albums- picking apart lyrics, drawing pictures and again, talking about how fucking phenomenal Neil was on each track. Hell, even my boss at the little hippie head shop I worked at was a super fan, so naturally, Rush was on repeat during my shifts.
Typically I wouldn’t write out an entire blog post about the death of a musician, but this is different. Rush changed the way I listened to music. It changed the way I felt music. Even this afternoon, while listening to Presto, my brain began to single out Neil’s drumming- as it was what I first learned to hear in each of their songs.
I was lucky enough to see Rush not once, but twice. I only wish it could have been more- I’ve seen so many stories in my Rush Family feed about people who have seen them 10, 20, and even 60 times (SIXTY!).
The first time I saw them was with a buddy of mine who happened to have an extra ticket to the Test for Echo tour. He asked me to go last minute and of course, I dropped everything and drove out to the now extinct Starwood Amphitheatre. We sat five or six rows from the stage and I honestly don’t think I’ve had such a moving experience since. The second time was right after we moved to Atlanta. I remember sitting in my cubicle, forgetting all work to solely focus on scoring tickets to their show. This time, I was bringing Miles with me. This would be his first concert at 10 years old. When the intro to Subdivisions started playing that night, my son looked over at me as I was crying tears of joy and said, “Mama! This is your JAM!” Yes, yes it is.
This afternoon he said, “I can’t believe I got to see this legend live.”
I can’t either.
Rush is my band.
They are there when my sadness is just too deep for me to find words. They are there when I need a pick me up, a good feeling for a Saturday afternoon or when I just need a recharge in my life and a way to reassure myself that everything I’m doing is right… I listen to Rush.
For Christmas a few years back, Bill and Miles surprised me with an original Wuhan promo poster featuring Neil. A local drum shop was closing down and I had been eyeballing that poster for weeks. They wouldn’t sell it to me, which I was super pissed about. Yet somehow, my husband was able to get it and have it framed. When I ripped the paper off that frame on Christmas morning, I started to cry. That same Wuhan poster hangs in my foyer and it’s the first thing you see when you walk into my house. A few years later, a friend of mine had a print made for my birthday with the lyrics, “Catch the mystery, catch the drift” on it. Again, big ole tears. It also hangs by the back door, so it’s the first thing I see when I leave. And for the past five years, I’ve been sitting on an epic tattoo design of all my favorite Rush albums… I never quite knew when to pull the trigger on it, but I suppose today I got my answer.
My husband, God bless him, has endured countless hours of me air drumming and singing to every.single.song for twelve years. In case you’re wondering that’s 19 studio albums, 11 live albums and hours upon hours of videos, movies and Neil Peart’s drumming dvd’s. That’s a lot of Rush you guys. He’s a fan too of course but of their earlier “harder” stuff (so he says). When I went to Europe at 17, I brought two cd’s: Frank Sinatra’s love songs and Moving Pictures. So for seven days straight, I listened to those two artists until I gave in and bought Tori Amos Under The Pink album for the flight home.
Neil Peart’s death feels personal to his legions of fans, drummers and lyricists. To those of us who drum (myself briefly included) he made us want to drum better- to keep at it until we cracked the code. I have listened to my son play drums since he was four and I understand that passion and need to crack the same code. I feel like the amount of Rush I listened to when I was pregnant with him set up his path to becoming a drummer in his own right.
To me, his death feels closer to home as Miles grandma passed away from glioblastoma, as well as my good friend Ashley’s sister. I hate to think of my musical hero suffering, let alone all the others who have died from this horrific disease.
I hate to think I won’t get a chance to sneak my grandchildren into a show to see his magic live. I hate to think that a trio has suddenly become a duo. Yet, there is some comfort in all of us as fans. Those of us who have come together to share our stories, our pictures, and our heartbreak. We’re a special group of prog rockers.
Thank you, Neil, for being an inspiration and for taking me to mystic worlds with your lyrics and your melodies.
Rest in peace and victory Professor.