Legacy Of A Master

Legacy of a Master

Neil Peart has died. In an unexpected announcement, the drummer from the legendary Canadian band Rush has passed away after a 3 year battle with brain cancer. Neil was an intensely private person so the tragic news of his passing came as a shock to everyone as it was not public knowledge that he was dealing with this diagnosis but much to the true integrity of Neil’s strength of character and desire to live his life away from the spotlight of fame, he spent his time doing the things that he truly loved.  We should take comfort in the fact that he lived his life in the way he intended and it is time to celebrate the influence Neil had on us all.

For everyone who knows me, Neil has had an incredible influence on my development as a musician throughout my formative years. Since I first began to learn to play the drums, my passion for music has taken me along a number of different paths but from the inception and through most of my time through college, Neil’s mastery and artistry as a drummer has inspired me, challenged me to strive for new levels that often times appeared out of my grasp and influenced me to be committed to always push myself and never settle on things being “good enough” but to take pride in what I wanted to accomplish and not be afraid to put in the hard work to achieve my goal.

Neil’s impact on the drumming community was exceptional and he will forever be regarded as one of the most accomplished and influential drummers in the history of the craft. His influence on the industry is undisputed and his impact went beyond just the drumming community but reached millions of others who were inspired by his abilities and found joy in his passion for music.

Ironically, Neil found great struggle throughout his life with accepting his status in the drumming community as he found his joy in the journey and challenge of bettering yourself and always learning new things. He was never content to settle on his accomplishments and found great discomfort in the adulation he often received. He was much more content to live his life anonymously and found his joy in traveling the world to escape the challenges of the life of fame and preferred to connect with people who shared passions in the things of which he found inspirational rather than the drumming he was so fondly recognized for.

In addition to his ability as a drummer, Neil was also an avid writer and wrote a number of fascinating books about his travels and the things he experienced along those journeys. He was also the lyricist for the band Rush and by often choosing to write about themes of his personal experiences, his messages through those lyrics helped to inspire people to think deeply about a number of issues and often to look within themselves and find the strength to deal with whatever they were struggling with.  Some of his words had a profound effect on me and a few of the lines that will always stand out for me personally in his work include the following:

Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to sooth the restless dreams of youth
(Subdivisions, 1992)

We are secrets to each other
Each one’s life a novel no-one else has read
Even joined in bonds of love
We are linked to one another
By such slender threads
(Entre Nous, 1980)

You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice
(Freewill, 1980)

Dreams flow across the heartland
Feeding on the fires
Dreams transport desires
Drive you when you’re down
Dreams transport the ones
Who need to get out of town
(Middletown Dreams, 1985)

Suddenly, you were gone
From all the lives you left your mark upon

I remember
How we talked and drank into the misty dawn
I hear the voices

We ran by the water on the wet summer lawn
I see the footprints
I remember
(Afterimage, 1984)

Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage

Cast in this unlikely role
Well equipped to act
With insufficient tact
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact
(Limelight, 1981)

Neil, who many feel was at the top of his game, was not content stay at the level of which he had achieved but perceived challenges in his drumming that he wanted to develop and refine and  sought out guidance and instruction from master teachers Freddie Gruber and Peter Erskine. By humbling himself and putting his trust and faith in the wisdom of these master teachers, Neil was able to overcome the things that were challenges and add a new energy and enthusiasm in his drumming that made the last few years some of the most exciting moments of his career.

Over the last few years, my own musical journey has continued to take me along different paths and Neil’s influence may not have been as prominent as it had been in my formative years but whenever I hear the music of Rush or saw him perform during the 24 concerts of theirs that I was fortunate to have attended, his commitment to the craft, his enthusiasm, his talent, his energy and message was profound and the influence that he had on me personally or on generations of dedicated fans is eternal and he will always have a special place in our lives and our hearts.


You are a true and humble master, who lived a life full of experience and passion and your influence and impact on all of us is timeless. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the world and enjoy the rest you so truly earned. We will miss you but your legacy is everlasting.

3 thoughts on “Legacy Of A Master

  1. Thank you Michael for your words and your reflections. Neil has mentored that love of learning and the passion for always striving to be better and that is evident in your work. 🙂

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