“When we are young
Wandering the face of the Earth
Wondering what our dreams might be worth
Learning that we’re only immortal
For a limited time”
~ Neil Peart
Today we learned that on January 7 the world lost one of the most prolific, gifted, inspirational drummers to ever walk the planet. Neil Peart wasn’t just a drummer. He was a lyricist, teacher, philosopher, father, husband, friend, and voracious reader. “Neil is the most air-drummed-to drummer of all time,” said Police drummer Stewart Copeland. He’s right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Danny Thomas air-drum to Tom Sawyer and YYZ. Any rock jock worth their weight will lovingly confess to doing the same over and over and over again as (insert any of their album titles here) a Rush record spun. People often ask me who’s the best drummer, and 90% of the time that’s followed by “Bonham or Peart?” That’s like comparing Van Gogh and Picasso. They’re both exceptional; uniquely beautiful yet completely different. One might prefer a Starry Night over Nude Descending a Staircase, but preference doesn’t diminish the craftsmanship of Picasso or any other artist. It’s just a matter of personal taste. I love Bonham and Peart equally but for different reasons. What stands out about Peart for me is his exacting technique and unquinching desire to learn. After he’d achieved enormous success, when most folks would rest on their laurels, Peart instead reinvented the way he played. He even changed his grip for crying out loud. Only a true master could do such a thing and still play with the speed and precision he’d always had. Very few drummers could do that. I join the thousands of other fans, drummers and air drummers alike, in mourning the passing of such an inspirational dude. Boy, weren’t we lucky to have walked this planet at the same time? To grow up as he and his bandmates in Rush grew up? To be gifted with his music and intellect in real-time? What a gift.