As Classic rock fans we have lost so many great musicians throughout our lifetime. For those of us who are the last of the Baby Boomers in our 50s and 60s we witnessed the first round of tragic loss in the rock and roll world when we were really too young to recognize the loss. The passing of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Duane Allman, Jim Croce and a few others all happened in our early teens or even elementary years. Those of us in our 50s and younger learned about their music or at least started to really listen to their music after they had already passed. Of course, for those born in the 1950s and were teens in 1970 and 1971, it hard harder.
The murder of John Lennon was the first tragic loss of a musical icon that hit the last of the Baby Boomers hard. Many of us has just graduated high school. Lennon’s murder was an incredible punch in the gut and one of the saddest moments in history. The Beatles as we knew them were gone forever. It seemed as if it could not be true. About tenth months later the rock and roll world lost another one of the most loved and important figures in rock and roll with the passing of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Led Zeppelin was gone forever. Once again it felt surreal. Two of the most important voices in rock history had passed away. We mourned for their families, their friends, and their bands mates. Two wonderful lives gone and the end of the story for two of the greatest bands in history.
The passing of Neil Peart echos the same feelings we had back in 1980. However, Neil Peart’s passing is so much more difficult to deal with because it reminds us of our own mortality. We are no longer 16,17 or 18 years old. We are all in our 50s, and 60s. When Lennon passed away, we mourned the great loss, but our lives were still ahead of us at such a young age. Neil Peart and Rush took the ride with us. That’s what makes this even more difficult. Neil Peart was in essence a family member to all Rush fans who fell in love with the band in the mid 1970s. We grew up together, anticipating every new Rush album and every tour. There was and still is an incredible bond between Rush fans. It’s a bond that has lasted for close to forty five years. Neil Peart was not much older than many of us. This hits close to home on so many levels.
In 1976, I walked into a Sam Goody’s Record store in the Smith Haven Mall and saw the 2112 album on display in the just released rack. I was 15 years old and had never heard of the band Rush. I had no idea what the band sounded like. It did not matter that I had never heard of the band before. I thought an album cover as cool as 2112 must have some pretty awesome music on it. I did not hesitate in buying the record. I took the long 45 minute walk home, put the record on the turntable and I was completely blown away from what I heard. I told all my friends in school about Rush, but none of them had ever heard of the band. That would not last long. As we all know, 2112 turned Rush into a household name very quickly in the United States. Soon, all my friends were Rush fans.
Rock and roll was a bonding force in high school for so many kids, especially the outcasts. The jocks had their sports, the thespians had their plays, we had rock and roll. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, ELP, Yes and Rush. We didn’t know that we were living in the greatest time period in rock and roll history. But we did know how great these bands were. There was something special about being a Rush fan. Neil Peart was a major reason why. No one had ever played drums like that before. We had never heard of or seen a drummer like Neil Peart. He had the largest drum set we had ever seen. That mustache, the white cape, the lighting that surrounded the drums and of course his incredible talent. This was a rock and roll God!
Drummers were in awe of the talents of Neil Peart. Those who understood drum techniques and the challenges that come in learning and playing drums were blown away by the ability of Neil Peart. In the past twenty four hours since the news broke about Neil Peart’s passing, there has been an outpour of tweets and posts on social media by some of the greatest drummers in the world all declaring how Neil Peart served as an incredible inspiration in their musical careers. One can also not forget Neil Peart’s role as the lyricist behind all the great Rush songs
If you take a trip back into time and walk into any high school in the mid to late 1970s, chances are you would find tons of kids with long hair wearing Rush t shirts and denim jackets with the word Rush printed on the back. Every rock fan had a Rush poster in their room. We were surrounded by Rush bumper stickers, Rush tattoos, Rush jewelry. Being a Rush fan was a way of life as a kid and it stayed that way with millions of Rush fans as we have all grown old together with the band.
One of the greatest rock and roll injustices was how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ignored Rush for so many years. What were they thinking? How could they have not realized the impact that Rush had on Rock and Roll culture. Rush fans went nuts over the ignorance of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They hated the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for it. However, the band didn’t seem to care. Ther were above worrying about being recognized by a museum. Alex Lifeson delivered the greatest acceptance speech in history when he gave the museum a piece of their own medicine with his “blah blah blah speech.” Recently, the Rock and Roll Fame has been inducting members of famous bands for their solo careers. It should not be long before they induct Neil Peart as one of the greatest drummers of all time. Rush fans will demand it.
There have been many great musicians in rock and roll, but there’s only one Jimi Hendrix, one Paul McCartney, one John Coltrane, one Robert Plant, and one Neil Peart. That’s the category Neil Peart was in. There will never be another one like him. It hurts to say goodbye.