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Neil Peart, Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson

Mon, Aug 3, 2020

Neil Peart talks retirement in new Drumhead magazine feature; full article now available online

Mon, Dec 7, 2015@9:34PM | comments

UPDATE - 12/11@9:34AM: John at Cygnus-X1.net has posted a sidebar to the article titled Notes to Neil where several famous drummers such as Taylor Hawkins, Mike Portnoy and Mike Mangini congratulate Neil on 50 years of drumming and reflect on how Neil has influenced them.

UPDATE - 12/8@10:09AM: Geddy Lee has responded to Neil's apparent retirement announcement. See this post for details.

UPDATE - 12/8@9:36AM: The following was tweeted out by Neil Peart drum tech Lorne Wheaton yesterday. He certainly makes it sound like he at least thinks Neil's announcement was "official".

----- snip -----

Yesterday we learned that Neil Peart is featured in the November/December 2015 issue of Drumhead magazine for an article that we had mistakenly labeled an interview. In actuality, the article takes the form of an essay written by Peart himself where he reflects on 50 years of hitting things with sticks. All we had at that point was a very revealing excerpt provided by John from Cygnus-X1.net where Neil discusses retirement from drumming, and now John has provided a full transcript of the article at this location. In the article Neil reflects on all the great things he has accomplished as a drummer over his 50-year career, in the context of having recently celebrating his 63rd birthday - 50 years after having received his first drum kit on his 13th birthday. But he has also come to the realization that he's probably reached the point where he needs to call it quits:

... Lately Olivia has been introducing me to new friends at school as "my dad - he's a retired drummer." True to say - funny to hear. ...Now after fifty years of devotion to hitting things with sticks, I feel proud, grateful and satisfied. The reality is that my style of drumming is largely an athletic undertaking, and it does not pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to ... take yourself out of the game. I would much rather set it aside than face the predicament described in our song "Losing It." (From 1982 it was performed live for the first time on our fortieth anniversary tour, R40, in 2015). In the song's two verses, an aging dancer and a writer face their diminishing, twilight talents with pain and despair, ("Sadder still to watch it die, that never to have known it.")

You have to know when you're at the top of your particular mountain, I guess. Maybe not the summit, but as high as you can go. I think of a Buddy Rich quote I used in a book, Roadshow, about our R30 tour, ten long years ago: "Late in his life, Buddy Rich was asked if he considered himself the world's greatest drummer, and he gave an inspiring reply: 'Let's put it this way: I have that ambition. You don't really attain greatness. You attain a certain amount of goodness, and if you're really serious about your goodness, you'll keep trying to be great. I have never reached a point in my career where I was totally satisfied with anything I've ever done, but I keep trying.'"

I recently picked up another great quote, this one from Artie Shaw. As many readers will know, he was a celebrated big-band leader and clarinetist (he called Benny Goodman "the competition") who famously gave up playing at age forty-four. This summation of his career really resonates with me now. "Had to be better, better, better. It always could be better...When I quit, it was because I couldn't do any better."

As I'd mentioned yesterday, hopefully Neil is only referring to retirement from being a touring drummer, and may still consider recording new songs as a part of Rush. But this definitely does not bode well for the future of the band. Drumhead is also holding a Neil Peart Tour Package Contest where one lucky winner will receive six pairs of drum sticks, a Time Machine snare, and 2 Paragon cymbals.

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