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RIP Neil Peart: See you 'wheeling through the galaxies'

Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart performing at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas on November 30, 2012.
Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart performing at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas on November 30, 2012.
(Image: © Gary Miller/FilmMagic)

"Suddenly, you were gone, from all the lives you left your mark upon," were the first lyrics I heard after hearing of Neil Peart's passing  Jan. 7 at the age of 67 on social media. The song they come from, "Afterimage," was cosmically the first song that came up in a random shuffle of Rush music that I listened to within moments of hearing the sad news. 

Peart wrote the lyrics for that song, which is on Rush’s record Grace Under Pressure, released in 1984. That's the album that started my journey into Rush fandom in my preteen years. 

For any Rush neophytes out there, they were progressive rock pioneers, with a career spanning over 40 years. Creating 19 studio albums, 11 live albums and selling over 25 million of them to an adoring and loyal fan base. 

Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart (L to R) of  the rock band Rush in Cleveland, Ohio on December 17, 1977. (Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty)

Peart not only made his mark as one of the most technical and powerful rock drummers of all-time, but he also wrote the song lyrics for Rush since joining the band for their second record "Fly by Night." Bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson rounded out this Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame-inducted power trio. 

Much of their earlier works were infused with sci-fi and literary concepts. Songs like "Farewell to Kings," "Cygnus X-1," "2112," "Xanadu" and "By-Tor & the Snow Dog" exemplified their desire to revolutionize music.

They went on to have commercial success with songs like "Tom Sawyer," "Big Money," "Subdivisions," "Spirit of the Radio" and more in later years. 

Peart also went on to author several books, including "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road," which chronicled his life after it was marred by tragedy when his 19-year-old daughter died in a car crash and wife succumbed to cancer only 10 months later. 

Long motorcycle journeys helped him heal and became a big part of his journey going forward. While his bandmates used tour buses to get from city to city, Peart would hop on his bike to explore the roads and get to the next destination.   

Their last studio album "Clockwork Angels," released in 2012, was a return to sci-fi record concept, heavily influenced by steampunk. Peart co-wrote a novel and graphic novel from the story.

Through the years, I personally went on to learn many Rush songs on the bass guitar and have seen the band more times than I can count. The last coming at Madison Square Garden in New York City on their farewell 40th Anniversary Tour in 2015, which Peart said would be his last to spend more time with his new wife and their young daughter. But I, like most fans, was ever hopeful they would eventually reunite.

Sadly, now, that will never come to pass but the memories will live on for all of those who partook in their brilliance. 

Rush has asked the public and media to "respect the family's need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time," in a social media post. Adding "those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil Peart's name."

Neil Peart September 12, 1952 - January 7, 2020 Rush

A photo posted by @rush on Jan 10, 2020 at 1:44pm PST

I personally like to think Neil's soul is 'wheeling through the galaxies, headed for the heart of Cygnus,' like he wrote in the Rush song 'Cygnus-X1 Book Two: Hemispheres' ... in an untethered exploration of the Universe. 

Rest in Peace, Sir. You left your mark.

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  • crowbar
    So glad to see my favorite space website honoring my favorite drummer.
    Neil was the absolute best, hands down. RIP brother
    Reply
  • BM BabeJ
    Afterimage was written as a tribute to an engineer and friend of the band who died back in the 80's . So sad the end has come to one of my favorite bands. RIP Neil and i am so sick of cancer.
    Reply
  • Defen Estrange
    Thanks to Space.com and Steve Spaleta for providing this stellar remembrance on a most appropriate platform--let it be an enduring vehicle to carry his legacy forward--and thanks to Neil for living and sharing his life--shine on.
    Reply
  • Spaleta_Space_Odyssey
    Defen Estrange said:
    Thanks to Space.com and Steve Spaleta for providing this stellar remembrance on a most appropriate platform--let it be an enduring vehicle to carry his legacy forward--and thanks to Neil for living and sharing his life--shine on.
    Your welcome. Neil and Rush have had a tremendous place in my heart for a very long time. Wish I didn't have to write the tribute for another 30 years! But sadly, "we're only immortal, For a limited time" - Peart - Dreamline - Rush.
    Reply
  • Spaleta_Space_Odyssey
    BM BabeJ said:
    Afterimage was written as a tribute to an engineer and friend of the band who died back in the 80's . So sad the end has come to one of my favorite bands. RIP Neil and i am so sick of cancer.
    I didn't know the backstory on that song, thanks for sharing!
    Reply
  • Spaleta_Space_Odyssey
    crowbar said:
    So glad to see my favorite space website honoring my favorite drummer.
    Neil was the absolute best, hands down. RIP brother
    Thanks! I assumed a lot of Space.com fans were Rush fans as well, so I am happy that it was able to reach you. This story and so many other tributes from publications and social media were widely viewed. A true testament of Neil's incredible talent and contribution to society. You will be missed Neil but your legacy will live on!
    Reply