Weekend Open Thread: Neil Peart, Rush drummer and “bleeding-heart libertarian,” dead at 67.


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George Olivo just told me, and it’s true, that Rush’s Neil Peart, one of our best drummers and most interesting lyricists, succumbed today to brain cancer at the age of 67.  I’ll be quoting heavily from the fine obituary Rolling Stone has already published:

A rebel from the start, “As a teen [in Toronto suburb Port Dalhousie] he permed his hair, took to wearing a cape and purple boots on the city bus, and scrawled “God is dead” on his bedroom wall. At one point, he got in trouble for pounding out beats on his desk during class. His teacher’s idea of punishment was to insist that he bang on his desk nonstop for an hour’s worth of detention, time he happily spent re-creating Keith Moon’s parts from Tommy.”

RS writer Brian Hiatt describes Neil’s amazing drumming:

“Peart was one of rock’s greatest drummers, with a flamboyant yet utterly precise style that paid homage to his hero, the Who’s Keith Moon, while expanding the technical and imaginative possibilities of his instrument. … His drum fills on songs like “Tom Sawyer” were pop hooks in their own right, each one an indelible mini-composition; his lengthy drum solos, carefully constructed and packed with drama, were highlights of every Rush concert.”

“Peart never stopped believing in the possibilities of rock (“a gift beyond price,” he called it in Rush’s 1980 track “The Spirit of Radio”) and despised what he saw as over-commercialization of the music industry. “It’s about being your own hero,” he told Rolling Stone in 2015. “I set out to never betray the values that 16-year-old had, to never sell out, to never bow to the man. A compromise is what I can never accept.”

“For the words of the profits
Were written on the studio wall
Concert hall
And echoes with the sounds, of salesmen, of salesmen, of salesmen!”

And we know that he was not only the amazing drummer but also the highly opinionated lyricist for the band (something Vern has a soft spot for, also being both musician and writer.) But wait, wasn’t he largely inspired by Ayn Rand’s vision of supremely selfish libertarianism, something that made it hard for some of us to enjoy Rush back in the 70’s and 80’s? Well, according to Rolling Stone, his youthful love affair with Randian ideology was just a phase which he later disavowed, calling himself a “bleeding-heart libertarian”:

“A lot of the early fantasy stuff was just for fun,” Peart told Rolling Stone. “Because I didn’t believe yet that I could put something real into a song. ‘Subdivisions’ happened to be an anthem for a lot of people who grew up under those circumstances, and from then on, I realized what I most wanted to put in a song was human experience.”

“Subdivisions?”  Let’s hear that.

Neil suffered through a lot of tragedy in his life:

“On August 10th, 1997, his 19-year-old daughter, Selena, died in a single-car accident on the long drive to her university in Toronto. Five months later, Selena’s mother – Peart’s common-law wife of 23 years, Jackie Taylor – was diagnosed with terminal cancer, quickly succumbing. Shattered, Peart told his bandmates to consider him retired, and embarked on a solitary motorcycle trip across the United States. He remarried in 2000, and found his way back to Rush by 2001…”

Neil’s bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson called him their “friend, soul brother and bandmate over 45 years,” and said he had been “incredibly brave” in his battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. “We ask that friends, fans, and media alike understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time,” they wrote. “Those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil Peart’s name. Rest in peace, brother.

Any more that we could write here at the Orange Juice Blog would be along the lines of Alex’s unforgettable speech on the occasion that Rush FINALLY got inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Speak on this, or whatever the hell you prefer –
it’s your Weekend Open Thread!


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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.