Neil Peart is, in my opinion, the greatest rock & roll drummer that ever lived. In fact, on my list, number two is way off. Peart was the drummer for the iconic Canadian rock band, Rush. I remember seeing him in action at a concert at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City when they were touring with the music from their "Roll the Bones" album back in the 1990s. Peart played a sizzling and impossible solo on his drum set that included more than 30 pieces. At the end of the solo, he played for several minutes with the platform spinning as he juggled his drumsticks in the air--and they were flying into the rafters. I had never seen anything like it in my whole living life. I still haven't. Neil Peart was affectionately called "The Professor" because he wrote most of Rush's lyrics and took inspiration from Ayn Rand, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and various philosophers, and fantasy novelists. His lyrics were deep and provocative.
Peart told his partners Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson that he couldn't be the drummer for Rush anymore. He got on his motorcycle and rode 55,000 miles, all over North America and as far south as Belize. Rush didn't perform or make any new music for 5 years. Peart wrote a book about this personal odyssey called "Ghost Rider." He described this lengthy motorcycle trip as follows:
"And me, I’ve got to start all over. Not only build a new life, but construct a new person. I call my old self 'that other guy,' for I share nothing but his memories, and everything he ever liked I’ve had to discover all over again, one by one, so that I’ve held on to, for example, reading, motorcycling, and birdwatching, but I’m not yet sure about art or music (I can look at it or listen to it, but not with the same 'engagement' I used to)."
Neil Peart was diagnosed with glioblastoma (brain cancer) in 2017, two years after Neil and his band mates retired. He died in January of 2020 at the age of 68. At the time of his death, his net worth was 42 million dollars. Neil Peart's life was marked with the exhilaration of high achievement and the pain of tragedy. But I think, perhaps, his highest achievement was rediscovering himself and rebuilding his life after a personal tragedy took his family away from him, through no fault of his own. He faced further tragedy. But imagine if he had not rebuilt himself and his life, remarried, and rebuilt his music career. That would have been a bigger tragedy. He really lived a tremendously full life for another 20 years after a loss that would have killed most people.