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Neil Peart, drummer for the Canadian rock band Rush, died on January 7 from brain cancer. Saturday, the news caught up with us 50- and 60-something fans, as yet another hero from our youth passed on.
Peart was a drummer’s drummer, and people far more qualified than I will give him his appropriate tribute. I do have a couple of stories that reflect my own admiration for his skills.
In 2015 our family went to a St. Louis Cardinals game at Busch Stadium, against whom I forget. After the game, as we were walking to the parking garage, at the corner of Clark and 8th, there erupted a drum solo that drew hundreds of hearers. Someone had set up a kit, and was hammering away.
As we drew nearer, it occurred to me: “That’s the drum part to ‘Tom Sawyer.’ And not with a boom box blaring distorted noise by which he could play. He was playing just the drum part, and everyone knew what song he was playing! At first, I was simply amazed that a street drummer could handle a part like that. Then it occurred to me that I can’t think of any other song (barring gimmicks) that I could identify just by the drum part. And that’s to Peart’s great credit.
My second story dates from about the same time. On May 14, 2015, Rush appeared at the Scottrade Center here for its fourth stop on the R40 Tour. The show was a trip through the Wayback Machine as the group began with newer songs and ended with older ones (the hinges being “Subdivisions” ending the first set and “Tom Sawyer” beginning the second). The sets changed as the band retrogressed through old tours. It was fantastic.
Our family attended, including my wife, who came to be part of what was sure to be an historic experience, our 13-year-old daughter, and her two older brothers. They were the ones to watch, especially the younger son, 19 at the time. Rush is his favorite band. For me, at any rate, the great fun was to look across the seats and see the sheer joy on my family’s faces as they sang, cheered, and kept the beat (when they could!) to music from a band that began when I was a junior in high school (earlier versions hail back to 1968). I can’t remember such enthusiasm for music from my parents’ youth.
Rush’s lead singer Geddy Lee was once mocked for saying that his band’s music would outlast that of Madonna. “Who’s Geddy Lee?” said the trendy ’90s host. I’m betting that in the long run, the music of Peart, Lee, and Lifeson will indeed prevail.