Profiles in Grief: Neil Peart…

neil peart

Profiles in Grief is meant to be a series, over time, of individuals, both public and private, who are grieving.  Realistically, this could mean anyone.  We all grieve.  Not one of us gets through this life without loss of one type or another.  Some folks I will interview and for others, like my first profile to follow, I will share public information.  Today I discuss Neil Peart, drummer for RUSH…

My husband has long loved RUSH, but other than a few songs I remembered from way back, I wasn’t a fan.  Back in 2006 when they released their album Snakes and Arrows, he bought us two tickets to see them at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.  Being the dutiful wife, I went with a smile on my face and a dread in my heart.  I sincerely could not imagine spending a whole night listening to them.  Well let me tell you…I became a fan.  Big time.  I’m a fan of drummers and Neil Peart is arguably the greatest drummer alive today.  So what does any fangirl do when she finds a new fandom?  She researches…

Neil (we’re on a first name basis ;-)) is a very interesting man.  He reads voraciously and writes just as much.  He enjoys cooking and has an alter ego, Bubba, who has a web site devoted to recipes.  Saying he is a motorcycle enthusiast is like saying the sun is warm.  When the band tours, he rides from place to place on his motorcycle with a companion — and he chronicles his journeys on his web site.  And he has grieved.  Hard.  His daughter, Selena, died in a car accident in the summer of 1997 and his wife, Jackie,  died less than a year later of cancer.  He has said that Jackie died of a broken heart.  As a way of healing, he embarked on a motorcycle journey that took him all over North America – literally.  He wrote about his journey through grief back to life in Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road.  During that time, the band obviously didn’t write or tour together.  There was a pretty good chance they would not ever get together – and Neil had told his bandmates to consider him retired – and Geddy Lee (the lead singer and bassist) publicly stated that there would be no RUSH without Neil Peart, that there was no replacing him.  When Neil returned and was ready to play again, his lyrics understandably reflected his journey.  He writes powerfully anyway, but there was new depth to his lyrics and power to his drumming.

On the first album released after Neil’s return, Vapor Trails in 2002, you can really notice the despair of his grief present in the lyrics – though neither song is directly about his grief.  Here’s an excerpt of the title song:

Stratospheric traces of our transitory flight
Trails of condensation held in narrow paths of white

The sun is turning black
The world is turning gray
All the stars fade from the night
The oceans drain away

Horizon to horizon, memory written on the wind
Fading away like an hourglass, grain by grain
Swept away like voices in a hurricane

In a vapor trail
In a vapor trail

You can read all of the lyrics here or listen to the song here.

Five years later, they released their Snakes and Arrows album.  In the song, Far Cry, it’s clear that he is much farther down the road of healing.  His words display hope and a kind of resiliency in this next song, Far Cry.

One day I feel I’m on top of the world
And the next it’s falling in on me
I can get back on, I can get back on

One day I feel I’m ahead of the wheel
And the next it’s rolling over me
I can get back on, I can get back on

You can read all of the lyrics here or listen to the song here.

Neil was in a unique position to be able to afford to take as much time off as he needed and then he was able to express his grief creatively.  He is a very private person who lives a very public life.  Few of us are in that position.  He was able, over time, to find meaning in his life again even after such devastating losses.  Today he is married to Carrie and together they have a daughter, Olivia.  He continues to make music, write, read, travel and enjoy his life…not the one he expected, but the one he has.

If you are someone who is grieving the loss of someone for more than a year and are willing to be interviewed for this series, please contact me below or privately at translatinggrief@gmail.com.

Copyright 2014 Lisa B. Wolfe, Translating Grief, LLC

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