Hero of the Day - Neil Peart As the drummer and lyricist for the rock group Rush, Neil Peart (b. 1952) has spearheaded a movement of technical excellence and philosophical relevance in rock music for over 25 years.

Peart began playing drums in his early teens, influenced by such distinctive musical styles as those of Gene Krupa and Keith Moon. Originally a resident of Ontario, at eighteen Peart moved to England, where he discovered the work of Ayn Rand.

He joined Rush in 1974 following the departure of their first drummer John Rutsey. Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson have been the lifeblood of the band ever since. Their first album with Peart at the drums, "Fly by Night," featured the Rand-inspired track "Anthem." It marked a definite departure from the band's previous incarnation as a 1960s-issue heavy metal clone band.

Considered "art rock" at the time, the group's new sound featured a more structured, complex musical style, driven by Peart's solid percussion. The lyrics became more thoughtful as well, addressing themes of politics ("Bastille Day") and philosophy ("Anthem"), and reflecting such literary influences as J.R.R. Tolkien ("Rivendell") and Samuel Taylor Coleridge ("Xanadu").

The philosophy of Ayn Rand is prominent in Peart's early work. The group's label is Anthem Records, and one side of their fourth album, "2112," is a musical adaptation of the Anthem. Songs like "Something for Nothing," "Cinderella Man," and "Freewill" are definitely Rand-influenced, and express through musical analogy the principles of rational thought in action. Peart's later writings, while more subtle, sustain the rational, individualistic perspective and deep insight of his early work.

Peart is also an accomplished author and world traveler. In his book The Masked Rider, he recounts his bicycle trip through Cameroon. His professional accolades include a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame (1999), and induction into the Order of Canada (1997), both of which he received jointly with the other members of Rush.

In recent years, Neil Peart has lost both his wife, Jacqueline, and daughter, Selena, on separate occasions. But he has persevered despite the tragedies, and is reportedly at work on another album to be released later in 2000.

One Rush fan says the group has provided "the soundtrack to his life." The musical and philosophical influence of Rush can now be heard among musicians the world over. Their instrumental virtuosity and lyrics provide an intelligent and successful alternative to the typically mediocre run of popular music. Rush has proven that musicians can achieve personal success without sacrificing integrity.

"All this machinery, making modern music, can still be open-hearted. Not so coldly charted, it's really just a question of your honesty."

    — by Mike Dominic

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24 Apr 2009