Saturday, January 11, 2020

A Texan in Tibet - We Interrupt This Blog...

A hero of mine passed away this week.  Neil Peart was more than the drummer for one of my all-time favorite bands.  He was an avid motorcycle rider, a voracious reader, and an amazing lyricist and prolific author of books. Peart's lyrical abilities and laws-of-physics defying playing skills propelled Rush's career to astonishing heights and his drumming style influenced a generation of percussionists around the world.

I like to say that I play drums, but I've always been hesitant to label myself a drummer.  Neil Peart was a drummer and by comparison, I am just a guy who occasionally plays on his drums.  Neil was also a profound writer with a gift for articulating his experiences on the road with Rush and on the road alone on his BMW motorcycle.  Neil never rode a tour bus or flew on the band's private jet to gigs.  A rider's rider, he would pilot his motorcycle for hours each day, arrive at the band's venue, attend the sound check, and then go to work, playing a three-hour set before discretely ducking out the backstage door and riding off again.  When Rush toured overseas, Neil would ship his bike over and ride from gig to gig in whatever country the tour happened to be in.  It was common to see him performing his own maintenance changing his motorcycle oil or tires in the concert venue parking lot.

A Rush fan since high school, I was moved by their deep subject matter as much as I was by the music itself.  Early in his career, Peart was heavily influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand and he dedicated the band's seminal LP "2112" to The Fountainhead.  I am but one of many who discovered Ayn Rand through Rush.  As much as I loved the music, I was more influenced by Peart's books and his descriptive writing style.  If you read his accounts of traveling the world on two wheels and then read mine, the influence is clear.  I by no means claim to be remotely close to Neil's literary orbit, but I have been told that I mimic his descriptive eloquence.  I'll take that as a compliment.

Neil commonly referred to his drumming with Rush as "work".  In his books, he would follow up an amazingly descriptive passage or chapter about a particular day's ride with a comment about "going to work tonight".  Peart made it clear that Rush was his job, but his family, his writing, and his riding were his passions.  Neil played his final show with Rush in 2015 and then retired into obscurity.  Rush never played the "final tour" card like so many bands do today.  They simply said goodnight at their last show in Los Angeles and have not performed since.  With the three members of Rush still living, one could always hold out hope that there could have been another one-off performance, if not a tour.  But Neil's passing seals the end of a musical and literary era.

It was reported that after retirement, Peart didn't even have a drum kit in his home.  I get that. He was retired and drums were a tool for his work.  I can guarantee that when I retire, there won't be a single IBM item in my home. I could never be the drummer Neil Peart was, but I can follow the example he set for achieving a work/life balance.  I am fortunate to not just pay my bills and exist, but that I have the opportunity to love my family and friends, tend to my property and horses, and to ride a motorcycle to places many would never attempt.  My Nepal/Tibet adventure is only 119 days away.  I stated in a previous entry "I got one more in me".  There may be others after this one, but Neil Peart's passing is a poignant reminder that life is precious and short and the meaningfulness of this opportunity is is not lost on me.