Neil Peart: Best of the Best

I’m writing this a week after the death of the rock and roll icon, drummer, lyricist, author, motorcyclist, and very private Neil Peart of RUSH. I’ve mentioned RUSH before in posts, and the fact that I’m a big fan, since about 1980. Neil’s impact on music is much more than his status as one of the world’s greatest drummers, though he was one of the best, ever. No question about that. But, it was his lyrics, sung by Geddy Lee (whose voice some people appreciate more than others), that spoke to me, and to so many. I am sure that no one, including Neil, could have anticipated how his perspective on his own world would relate to so many people, at least not in 1974 when he joined RUSH. Always the “new guy” to the other 2 in the band, he quickly became its foundation. I’ve read most, if not all, of his books and it was in one of those books that he revealed something which was shocking to his fans and band mates. That little something was that he was taking drum lessons, some 20 or 25 years after joining RUSH and well after he had been applauded as the best of the best. Rated by Rolling Stone magazine at the 4th best drummer in the world, this rock icon, this drummer extraordinaire, was taking lessons to improve his skills! He wanted to add some jazz and swing to his style, so he connected with Freddie Gruber to do so. In the book, he recounts that Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, his bandmates, found this surprising, but, as they later admitted, they could tell a difference, however slight, in his playing. The fact that someone who was among the best in the world wanted to be better, and cared enough to expend the effort, is remarkable. Similarly, as Neil discussed his rehearsal schedule in an interview with Jim Ladd about the R40 tour in 2015 he revealed that it was his practice to rehearse his parts for all songs that might be played in upcoming tours for a month prior to meeting the band for tour rehearsals. That way, he joked, at least one of them would be prepared. Alex apparently commented that Neil was the only person he knew who rehearsed to rehearse! By example, he demonstrated that the best of the best are the best for a reason. In hearing these stories recounted during some of the tribute remembrances of Neil, it struck me that those who are at the top of their games often share these traits. Top musicians hire coaches and teachers; athletes hire personal trainers or coaches. Our clients, who are top trial attorneys, rehearse and practice their trial skills by hiring trial consultants. One of the services we offer is jury selection rehearsal and coaching. We designed that service at the request of one of the top trial lawyers in the United States, who asked Melissa to help him prepare for a trial by coaching him on voir dire techniques. By many measures, he was at the top of both his game and his profession, yet, he wanted to improve his own skills. We were impressed with him before, but even more so afterwards. There is always room for improvement; this is obvious when the best want to be better. Thank you Neil Peart for this, and other lessons.

Because of David and his status as a die hard RUSH fan, I have been listening to RUSH music, at loud volumes, for over 30 years.  In addition, due to a rather bizarre set of circumstances, David and I have had the pleasure of meeting, on several occasions, one of the members of the band.  Although neither David nor I had the opportunity to meet Neil Peart, we have admired him and his work as a lyricist and drummer for many years.  Neil Peart had, among his several nicknames, one of the best of all nicknames, “The Professor.”  He was fondly referred to as “The Professor” because of his studious nature (for example, he spent many days before RUSH concerts at art museums located in the city where they were playing), as well as his willingness to help up and coming drummers hone their craft.  (All one has to do to verify this is to listen to Dave Grohl’s reverent comments about Neil.)  I am equally impressed by Neil’s unwillingness to rest on his laurels, so to speak, as one of the best drummers who has ever lived.  In my view, regardless of how good one is a something, one always has more to learn.  Therefore, the fact that Neil Peart took drum lessons means that “mere mortals” in music, myself included, have more to learn than time left in our lives!  It is no accident that Neil Peart was the best of the best.  He had talent, of course, but he worked hard to ensure his talent was used to the fullest extent possible.  RIP Neil Peart.  The inspirations you have given me will never be forgotten.

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