My son and I shared tears today. Each one of us in his own way, miles apart but united in sadness and shock. We heard the news that Neil Peart, drummer, lyricist, author, and all around great human being, left us earlier this week.
I originally started out as a drummer living in a small desert town in Southern Cali. I never owned a drum set, let alone a single drum. I had the good fortune of having a great friend who would loan me his when I had the occasional gig. I played in high school marching band and sat in with my friends Al and Andrew for school recitals. I once subbed for my friend Mike on a country gig at Silly Al's Pizza in Ehrenberg, AZ. A frightening experience as I always considered myself a mediocre drummer. Mike and I would obsess over Neil's solo on Rush's "All The World's A Stage" and "Exit Stage... Left". We were amazed by Neil's chops, precision, odd meter, and crazy percussion which he often incorporated into, well, pretty much everything. I recall playing these solos for our band director, Mr Spoony" whom looked at us and remarked "That's no drummer, that's a percussionist!". Those solos are orchestrated journeys. Well crafted, thoughtful, and fucken amazing. I was influenced by Neil's writing and took to heart his disdain for lyrics and poetry that "rhymed for the sake of rhyming". I took that same credo with much aplomb as I began crafting my own lyrics and poetry. I still do and with every stroke of the pen (or key) I am forever conscience of Neil's influence on my own prose. When Neil put together the "Burnin' for Buddy" project, which payed tribute to drumming legend Buddy Rich, well I flipped. I had been a fan of Buddy since an early age (thanks mom!) and here was one of my heroes paying tribute to one of his heroes. To hear Neil, and other amazing drummers, play music that most of them were not known for was a special treat. Those are some of my favorite albums of all time.
Rush was, is, my biggest musical love. I was there with every morphing, through the straight rock era, prog era, keyboard heavy era, and back to the guitar based rock that 1st had Cleveland radio station WMMS listen and take notice back in 1974. I bought two Rickenbackers and 6 Jazz Basses because of Rush..looking for that crunchy tone. Jupiter Groove have at times been compared to Rush, although a compliment to be sure, I don't hear it. I suppose that any 3 piece rock band that even eludes to prog rock gets compared to Rush.
Neil was one of those drummers whom explored the whole of percussion as a vehicle to convey a sonic story. He sought, with rigorous passion and finesse, to craft and execute a symposium composed of "syncopated swing". He became a steward of his craft, a High Priest of his religion. He was the consummate perfectionist and one could hear it in every beat, in every space between beats. He made a proficient air drummer out of every Rush fan. Every steering wheel became a Tama drum set whenever "Tom Sawyer" blasted out of the after market Pioneer 6 x 9s in Camaros and Datsuns across the land. He is one of the greatest and most influential drummers of my lifetime, of anyone's lifetime. He is in my Holy Trinity of Trappistas along with Buddy Rich and Dave Weckl. When Rush called it quits in 2015 it galvanized a universe of fans and musicians. I didn't want it to end..no way. No one did. I got to see Rush on their final tour, R40, and it was a magical yet bittersweet experience. It was special in a way that no other Rush tour had been. There was something in the air..the cosmos..the whole of "musicdom" bristled with the energy..to borrow from Mr. Peart himself. Our clown princes of nerdy rock took a final bow and said "Thank you". We all knew that it was real, and final.
We have lost one of the most gifted musicians of this century. An influential drummer, lyricist, poet, author, and wonderful soul. I am saddened. This is my youth, my molding as a musician, my passion as a fan. It is a stark reminder, and that with the sharpest of blades, that "we are only immortal for a limited time".
Rest well, Professor. Thank you for enriching my life with your talents. For sharing with us the fruits of your undying labor. For allowing us to take part in your great Ghost Ride, and for being part of the soundtrack of my existence.
We bid Farewell to a Rhythm King.
Juan R Leon
Jan 10 2020
The long awaited full length debut album, "Gears Of Progression" is finally here.