From Tales of the Rampant Coyote

I didn’t think it was possible to feel the kind of grief I did from the death of a man I never met, but Friday’s news hit me kinda hard. Neil Peart, drummer and primary lyricist for my favorite band, Rush, died of brain cancer. Rush was effectively retired…  we expected that when we attended their R40 concert in Salt Lake City, and it felt very much like a swan song. But this was the death of someone whose work I had admired since Junior High. It marked the true end of Rush, and the loss of one of the greatest poets and musical virtuosos in Rock.

Not that I agreed with everything he suggested in his songs. Far from it. I don’t think he did, either… his viewpoint seemed to evolve over time, as it should. But his lyrics were always thought-provoking and imaginative. He, with his bandmates’ approval, eschewed the marketable, unrealistic love songs. This move was epitomized in their breakout album 2112, where they were pushed by the studio as their “final chance” in the business to make something more mainstream and marketable. They decided to use their last chance to do the opposite, and create an anthem about musical creative rebellion in a world of soul-crushing totalitarian control over everything, including music: “We’ve taken care of everything: the words you hear, the songs you sing, the pictures that give pleasure to your eye…”

Against all odds, the album did well, and put them on a trajectory that spanned over forty years. Their music has inspired me most of my life. Their final studio album, Clockwork Angels, revisited the theme of Hemispheres, but with more maturity in perspective and even greater musical virtuosity, and of course cool steampunk trappings. And it proved to be one of their most popular albums. A great one to go out on.

Anyway, this  all hit me harder than I thought. Maybe part of it is a confrontation with my own mortality, because I ain’t getting any younger, either. But it was a sad day for me, and for many. I don’t think he believed in an afterlife, but I hope that today he has rejoined his family who passed before him, is looking down on the family he left behind, and is waxing lyrical about his new insights.

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