In Memoriam: Neil Peart (1952-2019)

“At the end of the song, he throws his stick up high into the lights and catches it right before the final cymbal crash”  This was my introduction to the legend of Neil Peart.  Older kids, teenager family friends whose walls were plastered with posters of all the bands parents warned their kids about; Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot, Van Halen, Ozzy Osborne. In 1980’s suburban Houston, there was still some concern that rock was a gateway to the temptations of the Devil.  (Spoiler alert: turns out that’s true, and it’s awesome).  But I loved drums and the mystique of this virtuoso planted a seed.

It wasn’t until middle school in the late 80s before I listened carefully to Rush and was hooked by drumming that stood as an equal alongside the guitar and vocals, just like I thought it should be.  Neil Peart’s fast fills and propulsive beat asserted a mastery through control, precision, and power; the holy triumvirate of virility to this adolescent looking for a glimpse into the adult world.  If his multi-tiered, impenetrable wall of percussion served as an easy target a la Spinal Tap, even a casual familiarity with Rush’s music reframed it as a testament to Peart’s dedication to a precision of sound.  Should a certain sound be needed even once, it would be worth devoting a place in the set for it.  There would be no substitute.

If punk is the epitome of musical impetuousness, Rush was the polar opposite: a sound that was borne of an assiduously calibrated instinct and repudiating the chaotic emotionality of intuition.  That was where I was at the time and Rush, through Peart’s intellectual approach and lyrics, met me there.

For the many miles ahead on your journey to a new universe, miles of smiles Mr. Peart.

About Suhas Malghan

This blog documents the design and development of environmentally sustainable machines and humane design practice in general; machines that work for humanity as well on the move as they do sitting still.
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