On the Passing of Neal Peart

I’m a nerdy male of Jewish, Eastern European Descent. I was born in 1971. My parents listened to John Denver, Simon and Garfunkle, Billy Joel, Mac Davis, Anne Murray and Carly Simon. My Uncle Ben started me on Saxophone in second grade.

Image From “The Buffalo News”

Second grade was also the year that I moved from one side of Stoughton to the other, to 86 Larson Road, 3 houses up from the Grabers. While Brian Graber was my age, and destined to be one of my best friends through high school, it was his older brother, Stephen, that introduced me to two things that would change my life; the game of Dungeons and Dragons, and the band Rush.

I said Nerdy.

I can’t say enough about how D&D got me into history, reading, and all that propelled me through life.

The soundtrack to that life was provided by Rush. Why? The stories that they told. Xanadu. The Trees, 2112. Hemispheres.

But the song that grabbed me? The Spirit of Radio.

I even had the name wrong for all my life: I thought it was the Spirit of THE Radio. But that was not the tag line from the radio station that Neal used when he was inspired to write the song.

Invisible airways Crackle with Life

Bright Antennae Bristle with the Energy

Emotional Feedback on a Timeless Wavelength

Bearing a gift beyond price, Almost Free.

The Spirit of Radio

The opening Riff is still my favorite thing to play on Guitar.

The chords, all four of them, are simple, and yet just enough of a variation from the “Same Three Chords” to give the song its own sound.

“Begin the Day with a Friendly voice, companion unobtrusive.”

How man trips to school started with the radio? In 1986, when my sister was driving me, and Brian, and her friend to Heidi, the radio was our start of the day.

You can chose a read guide in some celestial voice

If you chose not to decide you still have made a choice

You can chose from phantoms fears and kindness that can kill

I will chose a path that’s clear

I will chose freewill.


My Mother was (and is) a huge Robert Frost fan. We often talked about how he was sometimes belittled by other poets for being to “pretty” in his rhymes. Was Neal Peart a poet? A philosopher? He certainly got me started on Ayn Rand (a stage I moved beyond, eventually) but also taught me the term “Free Will.”

Leaving my homeland
Playing a lone hand
My life begins today

Fly By Night

My cousin Christopher Spelman came up for a week in July when I was 12 and he ended up staying all summer. We listened to Rush endlessly, discussed lyrics and drum technique. It was part of the cement that held our life long friendship together. I remember riding down the “Lazy River” trying to figure out which song sounded like “da DAHn da da DUH DUH…” and finally realizing it was the bridge from “Fly By Night.”

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth


I didn’t like the synthesized 80s. I followed Rush through them, but wished they would write music like I had heard from their earlier albums. But they had all grown. Neal moved from story telling to philosophy. Many of his lyrics on “Presto” could have been written for me as an adolescent.


As the years went by, we drifted apart
When I heard that he was gone
I felt a shadow cross my heart
But he’s nobody’s

Nobodys Hero

And so I grew apart from my favorite band. Music, the pillar of my life in High School, took a second seat during my Army years. By the time I emerged, Rush was in hiatus. I had my own stories.

Keep on riding North and West
Then circle South and East
Show me beauty, but there is no peace
For the ghost rider

Ghost Rider

And that was 20 plus years ago. They went fast. IN the past several years, I’ve shared a love with my elder son for rock music, with Rush holding a special place in our discussions. The song “Ghost Rider” grabbed his imagination. We’ve both read the graphic novel of “Clockwork Angles.” He was the first person I told when I heard the news. The second was My friend Steve, a bassist I jam with far less frequently, and a member of our weekly D20 Future game night…a direct descendant of that D&D obsession from my elementary school years.

Living in a fisheye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long awaited friend


Neal held a certain fascination for me. He was an introvert, a technician, a writier, and a perfectionist. The nicest of people, he seemed to have to learn how to protect himself. I don’t think he wrote anything more personal than “Limelight” where he explained to his fanbase the feelings he had from fame. We all knew him, but we were strangers, not long-awaited friends.

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


As I process the lost of one of the most important artists in my life, I am listening to their albums. I started in chronology, but I was drawn to different songs. “Afterimage” the song where he says goodbye to an old friend, was the first that came to my mind. And so many others. Most people think of him as drummer (and that he was indeed) but I think of him as a lyricist, and I keep seeking out his words. Lucky for me, he wrote so many of them. I am mostly drawn now to the ones I know less well, from the end of their career, the last few albums.

Geddy Lee is the voice of Rush, and we hear the words in his performances, but they are Neal’s words. And they have meant a lot to me.

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