Rush is a Band

A blog devoted to RUSH:
Neil Peart, Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson

Sat, Jan 16, 2021

Updates and other random Rush stuff

Fri, Jan 8, 2021@11:15AM | comments

NeilPeartOne year ago yesterday, on January 7, 2020, Neil Peart passed away at the age of 67 after a three-year battle with brain cancer. The general public did not become aware of this shocking news until three days later on the afternoon of Friday, January 10, as reported in this CBC article and by other news outlets. Neil and his family managed to keep his illness private, so fans were completely blindsided by the tragic news. Fans took to the internet yesterday to remember the iconic drummer on the first anniversary of his death, and several music publications also posted tributes. Rolling Stone magazine published an excellent digital cover story titled The Spirit of Neil Peart which included new interviews with Neil Peart's widow Carrie Nuttall, along with his bandmates and Rush manager Ray Danniels talking about Peart's illness and final years. Nuttall describes Neil's relationship with his daughter Olivia here:

... After the tour, when Peart wasn't working in his man cave, he volunteered for library time at Olivia's school. "Olivia was thrilled," says Nuttall. "She got to see Daddy at school all the time." At night, he'd come home and cook family dinners. "He was living his life exactly the way he wanted for the first time in decades, probably," she says. "It was a very sweet, content time ... and then the gods, or whatever you want to call it, snatched it all away." ... Peart had his own mourning process to get through, says Nuttall, "for the future he was not going to have and for everything he would miss out on with Olivia, and with me, and with life itself. If anyone lived life to the fullest, it was Neil. And there was still much he wanted to do. When everyone says, 'Oh, he was so stoic and accepted his fate,' and all that? Yes, he did. But it also broke his heart." ... Peart never played drums again after Rush's final show. But there was a drum kit in his house. It belonged to Olivia, who was taking lessons and seriously pursuing the instrument. Peart's parents had allowed him to set up his drums in their living room, and he did the same for Olivia. It said everything about Peart that his daughter wasn't shy about tackling the instrument in the shadow of his own achievements. "Neil immediately said, 'She has it,' " says Nuttall. "She did inherit what he had. And of course, that thrilled him. ... He made a huge effort not to make her feel intimidated by him - he didn't sit there and stare at her having her lesson. He would be out of sight, but he'd be listening." ...

The article also included details about Neil's private memorial service along with mentioning that Alex Lifeson was briefly hospitalized in March:

... With Peart's passing closely followed by a global catastrophe, it's been a dark and surreal year for his friends and family. In a world frozen in place, it's been hard to process grief. "It feels like it wasn't very long ago," says Lee. There was more drama in the Rush camp, too. Lifeson became terribly ill in March, and was hospitalized for a few days and placed on oxygen. He tested negative for Covid-19 but positive for the flu, though he did lose his sense of taste and smell while he was sick. Lifeson has since fully recovered.

A planned private Toronto memorial for Peart had to be called off, but there was a small dinner with the band and friends in Los Angeles, and a formal memorial there hosted by his widow weeks later. "Carrie picked a beautiful place overlooking the Pacific," says [Doane] Perry. "It was a beautiful afternoon. It was a healing time for everyone. Carrie put together a wonderful slide show of pictures, going right back to when he was a boy."

Some of Peart's friends - [Matt] Scannell, Perry, [Stewart] Copeland, prose collaborator Kevin Anderson - spoke in front of an audience that included his bandmates and other famous drummers: Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Chad Smith, Tool's Danny Carey. In Copeland's speech, he noted that thanks to Peart, all of the drummers in attendance shared the indignity of meeting fans who'd tell them, "You're my second-favorite drummer!"

At the end, Olivia Peart, age 11, got up and talked about her dad. "She was wonderful," Perry says. "She's really Neil's daughter, a really smart little girl."

Olivia and her mother are, of course, still struggling with the loss, compounded by pandemic-era isolation. The Canadian border has been largely closed for months, separating them from Peart's extended family. "Our lives were turned upside down when Neil died," says Nuttall, who spent Christmas alone with her daughter. "And then eight weeks later we were alone at home together, and it's been tough. ... We both think about him every single day, and talk about him every single day, and miss him every day." Through it all, Olivia is continuing her drum lessons. ...

Geddy and Alex also talk about how Neil's death affected their desire to continue playing music:

... Since Peart's passing, Lee and Lifeson have found little interest in picking up their instruments. "I love playing, and I never, ever wanted to stop," says Lifeson, during an emotional joint video call with Lee. Lifeson was in his studio, where nearly a dozen gleaming guitars hung behind him. "And I thought, you know, 'One day, when I'm just sitting around shitting my pants, I'll still want to play guitar.' And that's kind of gone now. After he died, it just didn't seem important. But I think it'll come back."

"For the longest time," says Lee, "I didn't have any heart to play. ... I still feel there's music in me and there's music in Big Al, but there's no hurry to do any of that."

Even as they mourn their friend, Lee and Lifeson are adjusting to the idea that Rush, too, is gone. "That's finished, right? That's over," Lee says. "I still am very proud of what we did. I don't know what I will do again in music. And I'm sure Al doesn't, whether it's together, apart, or whatever. But the music of Rush is always part of us. And I would never hesitate to play one of those songs in the right context. But at the same time, you have to give respect to what the three of us with Neil did together."...

Geddy Lee posted the following photo and message to his official Instagram page yesterday in tribute to his friend and rock brother:

Ultimate Classic Rock's Ryan Reed wrote an article yesterday on how Rush's The Garden feels like Neil Peart's symbolic goodbye:

... "For me, 'The Garden' was a major step forward as a songwriter and as a singer," he reportedly recalled in a promotional interview from 2012. "I've always wanted to do that kind of song where the melody was the thing that made it connect with you, that gave it resonance, where the voice kind of comes out of the soundscape and delivers the story to you in a heartfelt way. To achieve that without it being schmaltzy or feeling forced, and with the music around the voice to be very relaxed, I think can only come from years of playing and from confidence."

And Peart's meditative poetry sparks that performance. He was always one of rock's wisest lyricists, dwelling on Big Themes like adolescent angst ("Subdivisions") and alienation brought from fame ("Limelight"). And "The Garden" ranks among his most direct and primal work - one final reflection on mortality and maximizing every moment.

"The measure of a life is a measure of love," Lee sings. "So hard to earn, so easily burned / In the fullness of time / A garden to nurture and protect / It's a measure of a life."

Before his death, Peart quietly battled brain cancer for three and a half years - given that timeline, he clearly didn't conceive "The Garden" as a literal goodbye. But for his fans, still searching for meaning amid the sadly meaningless, it serves as a symbolic one.

Yesterday the city of St. Catharines, ON issued a press release with updates on the status of the establishment of a commemorative work of art honoring the late Neil Peart. From the release:

... This past year, St. Catharines City Council, with the support of the community, voted to name the newly rebuilt pavilion at Lakeside Park after Neil Peart. The pavilion, now known as the Neil Peart Pavilion at Lakeside Park, honours Peart's connections to Lakeside Park - a place that inspired the lyrics to a famous Rush single of the same name. Council also established the Neil Peart Commemorative Task Force this past year with the objective to commission a public work of art that will commemorate Neil Peart's life in music. The task force, chaired by Dave DeRocco, has been meeting since last July, reviewing options for the type and location of a memorial, which will also be located in Lakeside Park. The procurement process is in progress and a request for pre-qualifications will be issued within the next few weeks with the goal of selecting an artist and proposed design. The task force has also established a subcommittee to champion a full fundraising campaign, including an online donation portal, that is set to launch in February. ...

The full press release can be read here. More information will be released in the coming weeks via stcatharines.ca.

On Tuesday, January 19th FANTOONS is releasing a new officially-licensed Rush book titled Neil Peart: The Illustrated Quotes. The 108-page, hardcover book was authorized by Peart himself before his passing, and is currently available for pre-order via Amazon at this location. From the Rush newsletter announcing the release:

... Neil Peart: The Illustrated Quotes pairs elegant illustrations with some of Neil's greatest remarks to bring the poignant words of one of the world's greatest drummers to life. The book release was approved by Neil and in the works for prior to his untimely passing earlier this year. ... Pairing striking black-and-white illustrations from the acclaimed artists at FANTOONS with some of the drummer's greatest quotes, Neil Peart: The Illustrated Quotes keeps the beautiful words and musings of Neil Peart alive. Neil Peart: The Illustrated Quotes is the first and only Neil Peart quotes collection authorized by Neil himself. Not only does the book provide Rush fans-both old and new-the opportunity to dive into Neil's inspiring messages whenever they need a pick-me-up, it also serves as a love letter to Peart and his beautifully-crafted words that have inspired and influenced millions around the world.

Former Neil Peart drum tech Lorne Wheaton is currently working as the drum tech for KISS. This past New Year's Eve KISS performed a livestreamed KISS 2020 Goodbye concert from Dubai, and drummer Eric Singer gave a subtle tribute to the late Neil Peart during the show by including a Rush Starman sticker on his kit, as seen in this tweet from Lorne.

... this was all Eric's idea. I was still grieving with the loss of my friend and boss Bubba [Neil Peart nickname]. [Eric] was a big fan of [Neil], and since I'm his tech, it's a tribute to me. ...

Tomorrow will mark the 25th anniversary of the 1996 release of Alex Lifeson's only solo album, Victor. To commemorate the occasion, In the Studio with Redbeard has posted an old interview with Lifeson where he talks about the album which you can listen to online here:

When my opening question implied that he may have felt a musical need left wanting by his role in Rush, Alex politely but firmly schooled me for the assumption."Well, that would allude to my being frustrated or unhappy with something in Rush. I'm not," the soft-spoken, thoughtful guitarist/ composer made clear. "I've always been very happy. There's certainly been times over the years that I didn't feel happy about the way something worked out, but that's normal, that happens in any relationship, and I only have myself to blame for it. When I look back on those moments, I should have stood up for myself more. But I wasn't like that, so I'm not going to cry over spilled milk. Victor for me was more of a personal thing for me than a musical thing. It had nothing to do with Rush whatsoever. I mentioned to the other two guys that I would be doing this, I didn't ask for their blessing or expect it. "

There has been some buzz this past year about a potential 25th anniversary re-release of the album - possibly for Record Store Day - as mentioned in this post from back in June. Nothing official has been announced as of yet though.

Speaking of Rush solo project anniversaries, Geddy Lee's 2000 solo album My Favorite Headache celebrated the 20th anniversary of its November 14, 2000 release a couple of months ago. The November-December issue of Gearphoria celebrated the occasion by interviewing Geddy's friend and musical collaborator on the album, Ben Mink. Mink shares memories of working on the album, his friendship with Geddy, and whether he thinks Ged will do another solo album (thanks RushFanForever):

I think, like he's said himself, he's not done with music. He loves mu-sic. Whatever his secondary projects are, like that wonderful bass book he did, it is the thrust of who he is. I have no doubt something will hap-pen in the future. I know he talks to Alex all of the time. The world is what it is right now. It's a very, very difficult time to think about those things, let alone launch them. Every musician I know is keeping a diary, and wood-shedding - including myself - a large notebook of ideas and songs. It may not be the best time to put it out there, but it is a wonderful time to collect them. ... of course [I'd be up to working with him again]! I talk with him a fair bit. I think if you can have a good cup of coffee and a good laugh with a person you are probably going to be able to write some good songs with them too. Musically we have very similar sensibilities. A major part of my life was not 100% rock. I grew up like that, and I under-stand it. It is the differences that make the strengths too.

Over the past few months, Ultimate Classic Rock has been posting excerpts from an interview they conducted with longtime Rush art director Hugh Syme where he discusses the history and background of Rush's album cover art. So far they've covered Counterparts, A Farewell to Kings, Caress of Steel, Hemispheres, Exit ... Stage Left, Power Windows, Signals, 2112, Presto, Moving Pictures, Grace Under Pressure, Hold Your Fire, Permanent Waves, Test for Echo and Vapor Trails. This past week they added Snakes & Arrows to the collection, with Syme describing butting heads with Peart over the cover design:

... [Peart and Symne] almost always saw eye-to-eye creatively. One exception - at least at first - was 2007's Snakes & Arrows, which incorporated a Harish Johari painting based on an ancient, karmic Hindu board game. The visual arose directly from the album's title, part of Peart's lyrics for "Armor and Sword." Ruminating on how children inherit - rather than choose - religious faith, the drummer combined the Hamlet phrase "slings and arrows" with the children's game "Snakes and Ladders," arriving at a word combination that felt fittingly familiar yet strange. While researching to make sure the title hadn't been used by another band, Peart learned about the 2,000-year-old "Leela, the Game of Self-Knowledge," otherwise called "The Game of Snakes and Arrows." ("The Leela player rolls a single die, said to be affected by his or her karma and moves around the board," Peart wrote in the album's corresponding tour book. "Each square on the grid represents a stage of consciousness or existence, and the player is raised to higher levels by arrows, and brought low by snakes.") When Peart discovered Johari's painting, he was struck by the visual-lyrical "serendipity" - and after earning approval from bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, he decided to make it the cover. Syme, who always handcrafted the prog-rock trio's artwork, was initially less enthused - though not because of the piece itself, which he describes as "lovely." "It was one of the few times I thought, 'Now the world has access to Google, even Neil Peart,'" he tells UCR. "So I remember saying, 'I see what you have in mind, so leave it with me and I'll see what I come up with.' He said, 'No, I want that for the cover.' It was the first time I admittedly hung up, with a bit of a harrumph, still knowing I would be designing the entire package." Syme recalls seeing internet critiques about the cover choice - and after doing his due diligence by passing them along, he earned a "very Neil" response....

Interviewer Marc Allen and producer Alan Berry started a podcast in 2019 called The Tapes Archive where they present never-before-heard interviews with notable musicians, actors, comedians and other iconic people that took place during the 1980s and 90s. Back in September, 2019 for Episode 7 of the podcast, they featured a 1990 interview with Neil Peart which you can listen to here, and back in February they posted another Peart interview from 1991 which is available here. Yesterday they posted their 3rd and final interview with Peart; an interview conducted in 1994 while he was promoting the band's Counterparts album and tour. Peart talks about how Rush progressed over its first 18 albums, why he agrees with Frank Zappa that love songs are destructive, and what characteristic he has that has enabled him to be successful. You can listen to the entire interview below or online at this location (thanks RushFanForever.

That's all for this week. Rest in Peace Neil.

Share