If you're a Rush fan, the past several days have been a roller coaster ride. It all started when some fan sites posted a couple of quotes from a magazine interview with the king of all drummers, Neil Peart, in which he said (or seemed to say) he was now retired. Social media exploded. Was this the end? Would there be no more Rush? Wild speculation took over, as it often does online, and many fans were inconsolable.
To be fair, Rush's loyal fan base had been worrying about this since the most recent tour; it was very brief, and during it, hints had been dropped that this tour might be the last one. But after the tour ended and the guys went home to rest and spend time with their families, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson gave subsequent radio and print interviews in which they said they'd be willing to perform again at some point. But there was someone whose voice was missing-- Neil. And then, out of nowhere, the interview with Neil appeared, in which he seemed to state that he would no longer be part of whatever plans Geddy and Alex might make.
Or not. As it turned out when I did some fact-checking, this was not a new interview (I was told it had been done several months ago, and was just being published now); and more importantly, it was not in response to what Geddy and Alex had just said in their mid-November radio appearance on Q104.3 in New York. Rather, it was just Neil saying basically what he had said before-- that he did not want to do any more touring. As it turned out, it was not exactly a "stop the presses!" moment.
But once again, here was an example of how deep the love and admiration the fans have for this band: even a couple of quotes that may or may not have been taken out of context could cause thousands of tweets, emails, and Facebook posts. Since I didn't yet know the whole story, I simply commented that whatever Neil's decision, I respected it: he had given so many years of outstanding music to fans all over the world. Few drummers put as much energy and dedication into their craft as Neil did. In addition to writing excellent lyrics, and being a legendary drummer, he always gave a dynamic performance, a true complement to the equally dynamic performances of Alex and Geddy. Like them, Neil was always a professional. He threw himself into his playing, no matter how he might be feeling health-wise (I still remember spending some time with him one night in 2012 and he had a bad sinus infection; yet he still gave 150% during the show, and I doubt anyone in attendance realized how miserable he felt). So, if this was now the right time for him to stop, I could only wish him well.
Eventually, the story of Neil's alleged retirement was given some context. So, perhaps he would no longer tour, but he had not closed off the possibility of getting together with Alex and Geddy to create some new music. When this might occur was uncertain-- Neil is loving every minute of watching his daughter grow up, and hanging out with his wife and his closest friends. And while fans are probably disappointed that there might not be another Rush tour (no, Geddy and Alex would not replace him-- they have said previously if there's no Neil, there's no Rush), at least there might still be a new album. Or perhaps a live performance somewhere. Only time will tell.
Of course, if there's a lesson to be learned from the past few days, it's that quotes online are often not what they seem. But realistically, the idea that he does not want to tour makes perfect sense. Neil is no longer the young guy who could go from city to city performing for more than 300 days a year. He's in his 60s now, and doing all that drumming can be physically painful-- he's had tendinitis, and let's also keep in mind that many drummers of his age can suffer from some hearing loss. It's understandable that he might want to quit touring while he is still at the top of his game, and let the fans remember him at his best.
I'd be lying if I said I know what Neil's plans are. While I have several good friends at Rush's management company, it's Alex that I talk to the most often (I've also become friendly with Geddy's sister). But my interactions with Neil have been very few over the years. That's fine with me. He's a very private person, and I respect that. If I want to know how he is doing, I do keep in touch with one of his close friends, and I can get a message to him that way. But Neil has every right to live his life in the way that best ensures his health and happiness. Maybe he'll get tired of retirement and want to perform again. Maybe he won't. But we do know he has NOT definitively stated that he is done; he simply hasn't made any specific future plans. I fully expect Geddy, Alex and Neil to get together at some point, to discuss what the next thing is. Whatever it is, I will say what I've always said: for forty-one years, I've had the privilege of knowing the guys in the band, seeing them perform, and enjoying so many of their songs. I don't know if we'll get to hear any new music, but somehow, I get the impression that we will. Till then, I'm grateful for what the guys have given us. And there's nothing else I can say other than "thank you."