A big Happy 60th Birthday today to one of the crown jewels of music, especially percussion, the consummate, influential, innovative, and one of a kind drummer Neil Peart, who with his band Rush, has been a force majeure (Latin for “superior force”) for almost four decades now in the universe of rock and roll.
The appeal and charisma of Neil Peart spawns a cult which is one of the most loyal in all of music. While the band Rush is revered and loved wholeheartedly by legions of fans spanning many generations, the general opinion of Neil Peart and his approach to his instrument is unprecedented; scores of musicians, and non-musicians, hold the man in the highest regard, constant platitudes run sky high for him, he’s regarded as one of the best individuals to ever get behind a drum kit, and what he does behind that drum kit – the fast, smooth, effortless, almost robotic, machine like, all gears moving forward, every beat and meter exact and precision wound – is almost like a Swiss watch in motion. It’s a sight to behold. Influenced to a certain extent by jazz titan Buddy Rich and rock legend Keith Moon, Peart’s drum passages and to quote a Rush song “Mystic Rhythms” have put the band in the highest forms of complexly arranged rhythms and melodies, all expertly backbeated by Peart, complemented on bass by Geddy Lee and capped to a T by the great fretwork of Alex Lifeson. The band is bigger than ever, the allure of Neil Peart still blindly shines wherever he and his fans go.
Peart has also been the wordsmith for the band ever since he joined in late 1974, and first immortalized on Rush’s second release, Fly By Night. Influenced heavily by the vernacular musings of Ayn Rand and to a lesser degree lyrics by way of Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Peart handles his approaches to lyrics the same way he approaches his drum set, methodical, precise, almost handled with tongs in a way. It’s a style and execution that Rush fans have come to expect and love within the man, his playing, and the band.
Thousands of air drummers pantomime every note, every nuance of Peart’s playing at his live shows, it’s a subculture seen nowhere else in music. Sure, there have been classic drummers in rock music before him, like Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, Bill Bruford from Yes, Ian Paice from Deep Purple, Bill Ward from Black Sabbath, but as amazing as those aforementioned drummers are and were, and most hold John Bonham as the ace of the “great rock and roll drummers” pack, Peart has a core audience of rabid fans that transcends the like-minded musician fans of those other drummers mentioned here. Peart and Rush really have a unique way about what they are, what they do, and how they are absorbed by the general public that makes up their adoring audience.
Rush’s new album Clockwork Angels — the Canadian trio’s 19th full-length studio album – was recently released on CD and MP3; Clockwork Angels: The Novel, a companion novel to the album written scifi author Kevin J. Anderson based on the lyrics and story by Peart, came out last week in hardcover and for Kindle.
So, in honor of Peart today, pop on a copy of 2112, or Hemispheres, or Signals, Farewell to Kings, Moving Pictures, Grace Under Pressure, in a way it doesn’t matter which Rush album, the sound and attack of Neil Peart’s percussion rings loud and clear on the recordings, almost becomes the pinpointed stand out of what a listener hears, and that’s almost a monumental feat when realizing that his other compatriots in Rush are just as top shelf in what they do as what Peart does in his role in the band.
Happy Birthday to Neil Peart, a larger than life figure in his respective musical field, who still reaches new heights, still explores, still reaches and learns every day about how he can be even better on his instrument, which remain the great tenets of any true musician.