To telescopic eye
The star that would not die
No, not him.
Not like this. And certainly not now.
My hands shook as the phone fell out of my incredulous grasp and plummeted down below. Text messages flooded in from childhood chums bewildered by the asinine manner to which we absorb all sorts of tragedies these days; gaudy, infernally wretched links and incessant retweets from scores of town criers, curious onlookers and a healthy dose of modern day troglodytes.
Surely even The Professor would have found this more than mildly amusing and highly irritating in a world now governed by 24-hour cycles of sensationalism and goldfish attention spans.
So then why was I beside myself and unable to breathe?
Because one of my true heroes had died, and it’s not bloody fair. So personally ingrained and algorithmically coded into my mind like a celestial patron saint who may have started his life north of the border, but might as well have been born on Mars and forged from the Fortress of Solitude.
I am made from the dust of the stars
And the oceans flow in my veins
Here I hide in the heart of the city
Like a stranger coming out of the rain
I can’t remember very far back into my childhood.
There are smatterings of recollected coming-of-age revelations where I simply couldn’t wait to grow up. Memories of Doctor Who, Stephen King, Narnia, Star Trek, Middle-Earth, Dungeons & Dragons, 2400 baud modems and George Bell.
And then I discovered La Villa Strangiato and puberty dawned sooner than expected.
I was a precocious kid who embraced all genres of music knowing that the sky was the limit during the 1980’s, and so it should come as no surprise that in listening to 2112, A Farewell To Kings, Hemispheres and Permanent Waves, I had now equipped myself with enough inspired creativity to last me an entire lifetime.
That’s not an exaggeration. Between those four seminal albums and the band’s self-loathing progressive era, I unwittingly embraced a new life’s creed based upon the objectivist philosophy of a man who didn’t cater to religious gobbledygook or superstitious beliefs; he was all about free will and personal liberty and embedded choice, and that suited me just fine.
And I certainly remember that life-altering era where my parents brought home a drum kit and let me live out my fantasies pounding the skins like Bill Bruford, John Weathers, Billy Cobham and Bill Ward. Or at least in my mind, I was all of them at various points in my dreams.
But with Neil Peart, it was different. It always was. He was an entirely different level of human inspiration.
He wasn’t just the most technically proficient and brutally gifted drummer of all-time, boasting an impressive body of work that sprung to action the moment he joined Rush in 1974 (the year I was born), and literally transformed them into one of the most successful and respected bands across the Milky Way – a real Canadian success story, steering them through a gloriously pretentious progressive era and straight into a reality where tens of millions of albums were sold and gifted and exchanged and fawned over – until we all fully understood that something truly magical had transpired the moment Neil Ellwood Peart joined the fray.
Hit you in a soft place
With sentimental ease
They know the fantasies
That you romance to
His creative contributions were unparalleled, his capacity as a lyricist unmatched for those desperately searching for solace in a disquieted world filled to the brim with hypocrisy, hate and hubris. The band’s musicianship always made you listen, but it was Neil’s words that could make you think in ways like never before.
And he just kept evolving and growing as you knew a legendary percussionist of his ilk would. From Keith Moon to John Bonham to Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich; infused with the jazz tutelage of Freddie Gruber, Neil took his craft to an entirely new level and in doing so nourished us all with his mercurial talent in ways that will be fawned over for time immemorial.
See, a Rush concert was a totemic rite of passage for me growing up, as it should be. Every show was a reminder that you were in the presence of absolute and undeniable musical greatness. There are countless hours to explore on YouTube of Peart’s drum solos and innate artistry that will leave you wondering if they might be better used for first contact with aliens and exploring world peace. Every stroke was that impactful, every composition delightfully woven with lyrical grace that’s resonated for decades and will for centuries beyond. Peart redefined his craft in ways that made you wonder if he was sent from the Solar Federation brandishing the kind of nexus point we all need to move ourselves one baby step closer to peace and sanctuary.
Someone set a bad example
Made surrender seem all right
The act of a noble warrior
Who lost the will to fight
I can’t even begin to imagine the feeling of loss and pain shared between Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson who dedicated entire lifetimes to walk the same spiritual and existential path with their beloved friend. Three true and loyal friends, inseparable with their devotion to their music, their country and families. In recent years I enjoyed documentaries on the band specifically for their rare moments of spontaneous camaraderie and glib sincerity which perfectly captured the deep bond between childhood friends from Willowdale; Pratt, Lerxst and Dirk.
But for me, his memory will live on for as long as I have breath in my lungs and blood coursing through my veins. His passing will remain a poignant reminder of urgency in a life where we search for the quintessence of permanence knowing we are only immortal for a limited time.
There simple wasn’t anyone like him before and there won’t be anyone like him again.
Let the truth of Love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Armed with sense and liberty
With the Heart and Mind united
In a single perfect sphere
Rest in peace, Neil. Thank you for existing in this world, and in touching the lives of all yours fans who will undoubtedly commemorate your stunning achievements while honouring the way you helped us all grow up and deal with the harsh realities of life by using our hearts and minds together.
And although suddenly you were gone, you left an indelible imprint on all the lives you left your mark upon. Thousands upon thousands of hours for an older generation to commemorate while a newer one discovers the body of your work, the majesty of your philosophical ways and the quiet dignity to which you waged a losing battle against overwhelming odds.
You were and shall always remain the very best of us.