Clarksville, Tn — One of the greatest rock-n-roll musicians in the history of music, died last Tuesday. The news was released this past Saturday. Neil Peart, lyricist and drummer for the band Rush, lost his battle with brain cancer.
Diagnosed in 2016, the intensely private musician kept his illness to his immediate family and friends. Until the news this past Saturday of his death, I had NO idea he was fighting this battle.
Neil Peart was also a biker.
If you’re a fan of Rush, then you probably know how much Peart loved his motorcycles, and loved the freedom and anonymity that they provide. It was out of tragedy that Peart turned to his bike and continued his passion for them until his death.
In August of 1997 at the end of a tour, his only child, a daughter, was killed in a single-car accident in Ontario. Ten months later, his wife succumbed to cancer. Peart attributed his wife’s death to that of a “broken heart” and called it a “slow suicide by apathy.” So within a year, he had lost his wife and daughter.
At his daughter’s funeral he informed his bandmates to consider him retired and took a sabbatical from music to mourn and reflect on his life and future.
He mounted a motorcycle and traveled over 88,000 miles throughout North and Central America. He documents this period of his life in the book, “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road”, and I HIGHLY recommend it.
While I can’t imagine trying to deal with this sort of tragedy in my life, as a biker, I can see how taking off on my motorcycle would “free” my mind and help me re-discover who I was and where I was going. We ALL know the feeling of the open road. We ALL know the therapy that our motorcycle provides.
After the bands 30th anniversary tour, Peart released another book, “Roadshow: Landscape with Drums, A Concert Tour By Motorcycle” which documents the tour, but also, how he traveled between tour dates on his BMW R115OGS.
Music is very important to me. Having spent my career in broadcasting and playing all this music and attending all of these concerts, I’ve been fortunate to have met so many of the music icons in the business. As we get older and they start to pass on, it hurts a little, because it reminds us that we too have an expiration date.
The thing about Neil Peart the drummer, is that since I started my own motorcycle journey, I can completely relate to Neil Peart the biker for many of the same reasons he turned to the open road.
I needed a new direction. Something to help me discover where I would be going from here. I had retired, was battling depression and BOOM there she was, a nice new shiny Harley Davidson that set me free.
All of us ride for different reasons. This experience means something different for me as it does for you. But without a doubt, when we “mount up” it’s one of the best things EVER!
Neal Peart left behind some incredible music and some amazing memories for those of us who were able to see him perform. He, in my opinion, was the greatest drummer to play the skins. As a lyricist, he’s responsible for some of the most popular songs ever recorded.
What will stand out for me though will be his connection to the motorcycle and what it meant to him. How it made him feel. How it helped him deal with grief and confusion. How it made him a better man and musician.
This is my desire. To be a better man and a better person and to get the most out of my life however long I have before the expiration date. Time spent on the open road and with friends, helps me think. It forces me to move forward and figure out how I will spend my days. My wife and family. My health and finances.
It’s the GREATEST therapy you can get.
Rest well Neil. Your music will live with us forever and your biker journey will inspire us all.