There are drummers and then there is Neil Peart. In many ways he broke the stereotypes for drummers and established new standards for drums in rock music. Drummers are typically thought to be the ones in the band who blew things up (Keith Moon) or blew themselves up (if we are to believe Spinal Tap). Peart’s personality, however, was one of an introvert who actively shunned the limelight. Drummers are not usually thought of as being the intellectual in the group (though Levon Helm of The Band and Steve Gorman of The Black Crowes immediately come to mind as drummers who certainly were). However, Peart defied “the norm” further by being the chief lyricist for his band, Rush, penning challenging and thought-provoking songs for more than 40 years.
A year ago today, Neil Peart died. He had fought against an aggressive form of brain cancer for the last three of his sixty-seven years. With his death we knew we had lost a unique mind and talent; a true one-of-a-kind.
To remember Neil Peart today, I’ve put together three groupings of Rush songs that I think represent some of the major themes he wrote and played about over his career. Even though Peart was a Macallan drinker, I’ve paired each grouping with a bourbon you can raise a glass of in his honor.
If you are a fan of Peart and Rush, you might agree or disagree with my list and that’s OK. You have freewill. If you don’t like Rush, it’s an excuse to have a few pours (pass an evening with a drink and a friend) and maybe enjoy their music a little more given another chance.
Philosophy of Life / Introspection
The first theme I’m going with revolves around songs that explore philosophy of life and delve into who we are as people over time. I’m pairing these three songs with Old Grand Dad (bottled-in-bond or 114…your call). Being at the age of a grandfather (which I am) certainly brings a pause to reflect back on the life that’s been lived and how to best live the life that still remains.
Time Stand Still (Hold Your Fire album): “Summer’s going fast, Nights growing colder / Children growing up, Old friends growing older / Freeze this moment a little bit longer / Make each sensation a little bit stronger.”
Dreamline (Roll the Bones): “We are young / Wandering the face of the earth / Wondering what our dreams might be worth / Learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time”
“Time is a gypsy caravan steals away in the night / To leave you stranded in dreamland / Distance is a long-range filter / Memory a flickering light / Left behind in the heartland”
Resist (Test for Echo): “I can learn to resist anything but temptation / I can learn to co-exist with anything but pain”
“You can surrender without a prayer / But never really pray / Pray without surrender”
Creativity and Growth
Much of Rush’s music and Peart’s lyrics exemplified creativity. They also wrote and sang about being creative, exploration of ideas and growth. For this grouping of songs I am pairing Lee W. Sinclair 4-Grain Bourbon from Spirits of French Lick. Much of what they are doing at Spirits of French Lick under head distiller Alan Bishop embodies exploring the world of distillation and pushing the boundaries of the industry and of their own imaginations. This philosophy seems to fit much of what Rush has done especially within these themes.
One Little Victory (Vapor Trails): “The measure of the moment / In a difference of degree / Just one little victory / A spirit breaking free”
Between Sun and Moon (Counterparts): “There is a lake between sun and moon / Not too many know about / In the silence between whisper and shout / The space between wonder and doubt”
New World Man (Signals): “He’s not concerned with yesterday / He knows constant change is here today”
Boldness and Individualism
There is much of Rush’s music that can fit these themes. The 2112 album is about an individual resisting collective thought. I’m using Booker’s to pair with this theme. The bourbon (select the batch of your choice) is bold and unique and the man who made it (Booker Noe) certainly was, too.
Freewill (Permanent Waves): “You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill /
I will choose a path that’s clear, I will choose Freewill”
Headlong Flight (Clockwork Angels): “All the journeys of this great adventure / It didn’t always feel that way / I wouldn’t trade them because I made them / The best I could, and that’s enough to say”
Marathon (Power Windows): “You can do a lot in a lifetime / If you don’t burn out too fast / You can make the most of the distance / First you need endurance / First you’ve got to last”
“More than just survival / More than just a flash / More than just a dotted line / More than just a dash”.
Any show must have an encore and a Rush concert is not complete without Tom Sawyer. And since “your mind is not for rent / to any blog or government”, as you enjoy this classic song, select the whiskey of your choice. Your options are limitless (Maybe as his skies are wide).
Cheers to Neil: his life, his words and his music.
The treasure of a lifeThe Garden (Clockwork Angels), Neil Peart
Is a measure of love and respect
The way you live, the gifts that you give / In the fullness of time
Is the only return that you expect / The future disappears into memory
With only a moment between
Forever dwells in that moment
Hope is what remains to be seen…It’s a measure of a life
For a Spotify playlist of the Rush songs included in this article…click here.