The world can be a harsh place. People die every second of every minute of the day, many in unjust, unfair, and senseless ways. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and beyond has particularly stricken the elderly and those already immunocompromised. Into this daily death count often come news of celebrity passings. Most of these are logged into the “Oh, that’s too bad, I really liked that person in this movie or that song” category, and then we move on with our lives. Too much goes on in the world to invest the emotional energy required to mourn or really care.
And then there are some celebrities whose deaths, for whatever reason, really affect you even though you never knew the person and the celebrity in question had no clue that you existed.
This was the case for me when Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist of the legendary Canadian progressive rock band Rush, died on January 7 of last year from a form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. Peart, a famously private individual, had told nobody outside of his family and a close circle of friends that he was sick, so his death sent shock waves throughout the rock ’n’ roll community. Rush had retired from touring after its triumphant 40th anniversary tour in 2015, mainly because neither Peart (shoulder pain) nor guitarist Alex Lifeson (degenerative arthritis) thought they could physically play at the high level of musicianship they demanded of themselves any longer — though listening to the R40 live album one would never know. But surely there would be other albums like 2012’s excellent Clockwork Angels, or maybe a few one-off shows here or there.
And then Peart was gone, and Rush fans the world over felt his loss more than they arguably ought to have, given that he was a celebrity that the overwhelming majority knew only through his music and lyrics. At least, I did. Enough to write a book about it.
In a very strange and unsettling time in American history, it might seem strange to focus on the one-year anniversary of the death of a rock musician. But Neil Peart, and Rush generally, was a special animal in the world of rock music: he provides an unabashedly positive example of the effects pop culture can have on people.
Read the whole thing here.
Dreamers & Misfits is available here: