R.I.P. Neil Peart.


Allow me to begin my lamentation about the passing of a legend with a travel story from Bayeux, France, on July 16 in 1985. I was two months into my first trip to Europe, and was bunking in a Normandy hostel with five other travelers.

One of them, Bruce, hailed from Canada. He was blonde, sparsely bearded, quiet and analytical.

This is not to say Bruce wasn’t capable of being intensely opinionated, as I learned later when I offhandedly remarked that Keith Moon of The Who was rock’s greatest drummer.

Bruce quickly became red-faced, proceeding not only to make a convincing and fully detailed case that Rush’s Neil Peart was far better as a drummer — in fact the best ever — but adding that Peart wrote challenging lyrics, and besides that, Canadians in general were key contributors to the history of rock and roll all across the board in spite of what perpetually clueless Yanks AND Brits insisted on thinking.

Canadians were not supposed to be chauvinists, were they? I didn’t think so, either, but here was an example of one. But Bruce was passionate, bright and articulate, and I learned much from him during the coming days — while choosing my comments very carefully.

And as it pertains to Neil Peart, drummer from Rush who died three days ago, it turns out that this Canadian guy named Bruce, who I met 35 years ago in France and Belgium for a grand total of four days … well, he was absolutely right.

Peart was better than Moon, and he may have been the greatest drummer of all time, at least in the rock genre. As a lifelong fan of Moon the Loon, that’s not hard at all for me to say. Peart was a fan of Moon’s too. I close with a story relayed by Rolling Stone.

Peart grew up in Port Dalhousie, a middle-class Canadian suburb 70 miles from Toronto. As a teen, he permed his hair, took to wearing a cape and purple boots on the city bus, and scrawled “God is dead” on his bedroom wall. At one point, he got in trouble for pounding out beats on his desk during class. His teacher’s idea of punishment was to insist that he bang on his desk nonstop for an hour’s worth of detention, time he happily spent re-creating Keith Moon’s parts from Tommy.