Influences · Personal

Losing a Hero

It’s not easy when you lose one of your heroes. I lost one of mine recently and it hurts.

I found out last night that Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist of the progressive rock band Rush, passed away on January 7th from brain cancer. Neil was an extremely private person and no one outside of his close friends and family knew what he was dealing with. His bandmates, abiding by his wishes, didn’t announce his passing until yesterday. He leaves behind a wife and a young daughter.

I wrote about Neil last year, noting how he inspired me as a writer. Over the years, I watched how his song writing matured, how he went from writing about sci-fi and fantasy themes to penning lyrics about inner-struggles, philosophy, humanity, and the search for self. He became more introspective as he grew older.

Despite being consider one of the greatest drummers in history, touring the world, being adored by millions of fans, Neil had his share of tragedy. In the late 1990s he lost his nineteen year old daughter in a single-car crash (she was driving back to college after visiting home for the holidays). Less than a year later, he lost his common-law wife to cancer. He quit the band and went into a self-imposed exile, climbing on one of his motorcycles and riding over 15k miles across Canada, the U.S., and into Central America.

But he healed, eventually fell in love again, got married, and had a daughter with his new wife. With is life back in order, he rejoined the band and they returned to recording and touring. Age began to catch up with him, the arthritis, tendinitis, and other maladies from forty years of drumming were wearing him down. In 2015 he retired so he could rest and spend time with his family. Then came the cancer.

I know that progressive rock isn’t for everyone, so I won’t insist you listen to Rush to get a feel for his lyricism. However, if you’re interested, I recommend the following tracks. Not only are they less-progressive, but the lyrics are some of my favorites.

Entre Nous
Red Barchetta
The Analog Kid
The Larger Bowl
Nobody’s Hero

As mentioned in my previous post on Neil, he also wrote several books and was a blogger. All his books are travel-related, but they aren’t just about travel. For being such a quiet, private individual, his books reveal much about his personality, his beliefs, his feelings about the world around him. I highly recommend his first book, The Masked Rider, about his bicycle tour through Cameroon, Africa. It’s fantastic. I haven’t read all of his books yet, but I’m working on it.

There have only been two deaths over the past few years that have brought me to tears. The first was David Bowie. Now it’s Neil. But the tears are selfish tears. I’m sad that there won’t be any new books from him, no new music. I’m sad that I won’t get to read new blog posts about his travels. But I’m going to try and focus on the positive. There’s forty years of music I can continue to listen to. There are still more books of his to read. And he’s no longer in pain.

It’s tough when you lose someone who was such an influence on your life.

“I don’t regret that the ride has to be over, but rather feel grateful for the miles travelled, for the sights along the way, and to be exactly where I am.” – Neil Peart (1952 – 2020)


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