Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Finding Our Way

Yesterday was Neil Peart's birthday.  For those who are not Rush fans, Neil spent more than four decades as their drummer.  He was an amazing and talented musician, and I don't say that as just some fan-- his own peers in the music industry have spoken with great admiration about his skill.  He was also a respected songwriter, who helped Rush to go from being just another bar band in Toronto to becoming a well-known rock band with millions of loyal fans all over the world, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well.

Drumming was a large part of Neil's identity, and he took great pride in it; he studied the work of other drummers, past and present, and he always gave 100% every time he performed.  If you ever saw Rush in concert, you know that few bands put on a more dynamic and energetic performance-- no opening act, just Alex, Geddy, and Neil, onstage doing what they loved, entertaining their fans.

And then, one day in late 2015, it all came to an end.  Yes, bands break up, but it's usually due to animosity among the members. That was not the case here-- the guys were friends and they remain so to this day.  But Neil announced he would no longer tour, and in fact he was retiring. One major factor in his decision was health:  he had severe tendonitis, and drumming was just aggravating it over and over again.  Another factor was his desire to spend more time with his wife and their little daughter.  As he told Drumhead magazine, he accepted the fact that it was time to "take [himself] out of the game."

At a certain point in life, many of us have to reinvent ourselves, or see what the next thing is for us.  Sometimes, it's voluntary-- some folks hate their job, even if it pays well, and they're eager to make a change.  But for others, it's a difficult decision-- they love what they have been doing, but they realize they cannot continue on with it.  Athletes often confront this dilemma:  as they get older and their skills begin to diminish, they gradually have to accept that it's time to retire.  Veteran politicians also encounter this same problem:  they may have served for years, but now they must agree to step aside and let the next generation onto the stage.  If you've ever been in the situation of wanting to stay but knowing it's time to go, it's not an easy place to be.  

I know it well.  In my own life, I had to accept the fact that the broadcasting industry had changed and my skill set was no longer in demand; the most difficult decision I ever made was deciding to go back to school and study for my PhD so that I could become a professor.  I miss radio every day, but there were no jobs, and it was time for some other way to make a living.  I'm fine about being a professor, but I can't deny I wish I could have stayed in broadcasting.  I imagine many athletes and politicians know exactly how I feel, since they too wish they didn't have to walk away from what they loved.

But Neil doesn't seem to fit into any of those categories-- he wasn't unhappy playing drums for a living (in fact he was devoted to it); his skills were not diminishing (although he was increasingly in pain each time he played); and he probably could have continued on for a while longer, if that's what he wanted to do.  But he knew it was time, and he wanted to leave on his own terms.  And so he did.  I would be lying if I said I've talked with him recently, but I do know several friends of his, and I am told he is very happy with his decision.  He and Alex and Geddy still keep in touch, but by all accounts, he has no regrets about being a "retired drummer."  Fans desperately want him to return to drumming (and return to Rush) but that is not what he wants, nor what's best for his health.  It's a wise person who understands when it's time for a change.  And whether the change is voluntary or not, it's a wise person who embraces whatever the next phase in their life happens to be.  

31 comments:

  1. As a Rush fan, I was sad to here Neil was retiring. However, please pass on that at least *some* fans appreciate the fact he continued as long as he did.

    Personally, I prefer he retire now, before he is not able to continue playing at the same level as when he was younger. Plus, he has definitely earned the right to spend time with his family. I just hope he continues to grace us with his excellent writing.

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  2. No regrets - all gratitude. Enjoy your well-earned retirement Neil, and keep steering by the stars.

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  3. Happy Birthday Neil!!!! You inspired me and influenced my life. Keep playing and do it with love!
    Donna, you are such an excellent communicator. I love your writing.
    I wish I could be in your class!

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  4. Of course I was upset when I heard Neil retired, but as a fan, I also have to respect it. After all he gave us decades of great music, lyrics, and drum solos. The man pretty much played his heart out for us at venues all over the world. There we nights he was suffering, and still he went out there and gave it all he had. As sad as I am about Rush not being around anymore, I am proud to be a fan of these three musicians who have their all to their fans.

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  5. Well said, Donna. As sad as it is to see the band come to an end, I feel fortunate to have been there through a lot of it. Neil has given so much of his life to Rush. I'm glad the band went out on top rather than trailed off into obscurity.

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  6. I agree Donna. I am as big a Rush fan as anyone else, and although this blog post is about Neil, it is because of Rush and Geddy that I play bass today. Anyway, I digress. I am happy for Neil and respect him as a musician and as a man who definitely had to make a tough decision. He is a fantastic writer, every bit as talented and precise as his drum skills. This chapter of Neil Peart will bring all of us fans a new perspective on his thinking and literary skills. I look forward to it and wish Mr. Peart all the best.

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  7. I hope that Rush is retired. I don't want to see anything less than what they had perfected. The three of them is Rush.

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    1. Brian, Geddy & Alex said very clearly that without Neil, there is no Rush. They would never perform as Rush unless he were part of it.

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  8. I am hoping he does write. Most people retire at his age and he has a daughter a year younger than my son who is 9. I hope he enjoys his time with his family and glad he is still close to Geddy and Alex. I do hope as I said earlier that he continues to write, perhaps books or poems. In the meantime we can enjoy what he gave us for years.

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  9. The most precious commodity we possess is time. No amount of money can replace lost time. Time=life so when a person decides to spend his time a certain way, it's his life. I am so appreciative of everything Rush has given to me and I celebrate it constantly. That is what I choose to do with some of my time I have here on earth. Everyone's time is their own business period. Thanks Donna! Great blog!

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  10. What a wonderful piece. I completely respect and admire Neil for "finding his way" with class and dignity. As a fan I will miss him greatly, but the music and his words will be with me the rest of my life!

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  11. Totally understandable. But a pity nonetheless. I only got to see them play twice...but it was like watching three magicians. Such a good, intelligent yet fun loving band that wrote songs that redefined their genre over and over !

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  12. Neil - I'm so glad you're with your Wife and little daughter. For you to come back the way you did is amazing. All the best Pratt!!

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  13. Neil - I'm so glad you're finally spending time with Carrie and Olivia. Thanks for that 'One Little Victory' (for the last 13 Years). You were introduced to me after John Bonham passed. I've been studying your drumming and the music of Rush since 1980 and continue to, to this day playing in a Rush Tribute. I wish you and your family nothing but the best.

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  14. They (RUSH) have no idea of the impact they've had on my life since the age of 14 in 1980. If I could ever speak to them, it would be simply to say "thanks" and "well done!" I'm so thankful to Neil for those 40 years of treasured memories and don't begrudge him one bit for wanting to be with his family on his own terms. Thank you, too, for this update and for your part in changing my life.

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  15. When it is time to retire, it's best felt when one is at the top. And when Neil actually got up to bow out with the boys when the last concert ended, that was a clear sign. Well deserved. I guess to ask for new music without touring goes against the grain of how "it is done" and would possibly send strange signals especially after the last documentary. But we can wish, right?

    Fred

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  16. My number one band from when Hemispheres was released.Although I am a guitarist/bassist Neil was probably the first drummer who made me say what's this guy doing.Also a drummer who wrote lyrics?As any musician will tell you being on stage for couple of hours is great it just all the other baggage that goes with it.At 55 I never made the big time but lugging all my gear into a car and travelling up to hour ,setting up etc,getting home after 2pm is wearing thin on me.Uk totally respect his decision as far as touring goes.I wish there was another album in them but that's just wishful thinking.Anyway Happy Birthday Neil (and to my wife) and cheers.

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  17. After losing one child, Maybe Neil wants some "normalcy" in his life while raising his younger daughter.

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  18. I'm grateful for a library of music that spans 40 years. If anyone has earned retirement, it's Pratt. The thought of him and his little family makes me smile.
    Thanks Neil, from the bottom of my heart.

    (…and thank you Donna, for being a conduit through which we can catch the occasional glimpse of our favourite stooges.)

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  19. This Rush fan totally respects Neil's retirement. Over 40 years of unswerving dedication to the Band should be applauded with great intensity! RUSH gave the rock & roll world the blueprint for enjoying a good, long career. Be good people FIRST, respect each other, be unselfish, and dedicate yourselves to making better and better music everytime you play.

    And THANK YOU to Donna Halper for your role in the band's success!

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  20. Hi Ms.Donna.! Great piece on Neil, very well explained; that as he was earning his living and thrilling & inspiring countless other's he was physically Hurting each time he played and it tore down his body the more he played.! That is dedication to his Kraft and to the fans, HIS way of giving US love & appreciation for supporting them.! Can you imagine doing something you've Loved for years, but hurting worse each time you do it, and being so driven to give us great shows that it finally got to be too much & leaving his family each time hurt worse than his body. Thanks To RUSH, Alex, Neil & Ged they litterly changed my life. Be well boys..Jim B.

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  21. I was very fortunate to be able to give Neil a personal Note on the night of his final performance. I thought I would share it.

    Neil,  
    thank you are two very simple words that are used to express so much.  In our case it simply expresses our gratitude and best wishes. 

    As we also spend many hours outside with a yard full of wild birds (finches, wrens, cardinals, etc…). I was struck by a thought that you might enjoy one of these picnic blankets when you and your daughter go bird watching.  I chose the colors and designs with that in mind.

    I hope you enjoy using this as much as we enjoyed making it. 

    Thank you for our sense of “Bravado"

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  22. So grateful for what Neil and the guys at work have done. I daily enjoy their catalog of incredible music. It is nice to know that Neil is living a normal life as possible. And nice blog Donna.

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  23. I'm sad that it's over, but glad it happened.
    Simple as that. If he decides to try playing again I'll be thrilled, but if not, he's done a great deal to up the quality of drumming in music today.

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  24. Well said, Mark. Couldn't agree more. Even if they did another studio album and didn't tour but it came with videos of them doing the songs, that would be great too. At least they'd be in an environment that's in their control and they could do it at their own pace.

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  25. I believe we were lucky to have NEP's recovery from the tragedies of 96/97. His work since that time has been at a high professional level. Thank you NEP - enjoy retirement and life!

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  26. DH - I really appreciate your sensibility, perspective, and respect in your blogging. You are a bright spot. The comfort you deliver is much like NEP's writings - you and him can write without pissing someone off, or at least not too much for that matter. Keep blogging, especially on the current socio-politico events.

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    1. When I write about Rush, I notice that I get tons of page views, & nothing but friendly comments (which is nice). However, that's not what happens when I write about current events...

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  27. It is heart warming to see all these comments, and I’m sure if Neil read them it would make him happy. True Rush fans, and genuinely good people, have nothing but love and appreciation for The Professor. Neil, you returned back to the band, and back to the land of the loving, and we all thank you for that, not least for the music you helped create since then, nor the countless live shows - of which I was fortunate to be at many :) I do ask for one favour however, keep us updated on your wonderings via your website. There are many thousands of us who like to know you’re ‘doing ok’. It is also helps to instruct on how best to live. Because you know how.
    Thomas Jones, Liverpool, UK.

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    1. I am friendly with Neil's best friend, and yes Neil is aware that the fans are all wishing him well in this next chapter of his life. He is at peace, enjoying his family, and feeling healthier. Thanks so much for writing!

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