This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

January 10 was not a good day for many Canadians, musicians regardless of where they live, and especially those who love Rush. It’s the day we learned Neil Peart died.

You might be wondering why I’m writing about this so long after the fact, but the truth is many people, like when David Bowie passed, are still reconciling his death. Peart was that influential to many people.

Not just because up to January 7 he was the best drummer on the planet (stop that argument right now, I looked, all the other ‘best drummers on the planet’ have said at one time or another they regard Neil as the best). Neil was also one of our greatest poets/lyricists. It’s funny how four of the greatest lyricists are Canadian (Gord, Gord Downie, Leonard Cohen and Neil). While Neil is best known for speaking with his sticks, his words also caused many a (once) young person to think about something bigger than themselves.

So, I’m writing about him today for those who don’t get the hubbub It’s OK you don’t. Neil wasn’t the kind of person to grab the spotlight and demand attention. He got it anyway from a segment, but I think I want you to know, whether you know it or not, he has had influence on your life. Far too many people who have written music or lyrics you love said their influence in choosing to be a musician was Rush, in particular Neil. The importance and scope of the threads throughout the music of a few generations lead back to Neil.

There was drumming before Neil, and then drumming after Neil, just like there was before Buddy Rich and after; this is how influential Neil was. He often spoke of Keith Moon and John Bonham in reverential tones and he should have, but I think Neil took the foundations of Moon and Bonham and elevated what one could do hitting things to make music. And it was Neil who organized a tribute to Buddy Rich concert, starring many of today’s contemporary greats, not once, but several times. To me it puts to rest all the bickering of who is better when the until recently current best pays such tribute to another.

So, on the day of, I was trolling the internet, websites and discussion boards, and noticed a trend. Some people were saying words to the effect, “how can you be so distraught, you didn’t know Neil personally.” So I took to the keyboard do try and synthesize a response, which gained some traction on other pages, and I thought I would reproduce it here.

Damn, sometimes a picture says it all.

I’ve been looking in on what everyone has to say on the internet, and each passing moment the sorrow grows.

I never met Neil Peart. I’ve met a lot of musicians from the famous file, but not him. I would have loved to bump into him in some cafe; his motorcycle parked in front, and sit and chat over a coffee. I wouldn’t let on I knew who he was; he said he really did not like the fawning masses. No, I’d want to give back to him something, which would pale in comparison to what he’s given to me, a moment with a stranger talking about the weather or whatever. In my mind, we’d sit for an hour or so, while he rests from the road, and talk about anything but music. Only on parting would I say, “Thanks Neil,” letting him know I knew who he was, “Thanks for enriching my life.” And I’d walk away.

Or maybe, in another setting, there’d be a drum pad between us and we’d play some stuff together, maybe he’d show me something I couldn’t do, and I’d show him something I can do. I’d never think we could ever do that, each of us behind a drum set, he’d dust me, but on a pad that’s something different. I’d just say, “cool, but have you tried cheesing it? Followed by a flam and a drag? Heh, I can’t either, but I know this guy Kevin who can do it.” We’d have some fun, I think.

As each moment passes, more tears start to come. Why? I didn’t know him. But I loved him for the giant of music he was and for the giant of a man he proved to be off the stage.

Many of you looking in started to play drums, or wanted to, because of Ringo (if you haven’t admitted it, get a grip, we’re all old enough here, it was Ringo), but it was Neil who captured our imagination to the possibilities of what each of us could do with drums. It was Neil who gave us the inspiration to grow as musicians.

I see many comments, and other names get lumped in, Bonham, Moon, etc., all fine drummers. There are others, but there are only two sitting in the box seats in the theater of great drummers and Neil is in one of them. It’s so disrespectful to say he was, “one of the great rock and roll drummers, along with…”

I think I’m crying because my youth is slipping away, even though I don’t feel old, and many keep telling me to grow up, but it is. Neil Peart has been a part of my musical experience, education, and enjoyment my entire life, at least the part of my life when music took over when I was hitting puberty. I think the tears are because it sucks having a drawer-full of memories, some of which are tied to third person, and you know you’ll never add another similar memory because one is no more.

He retired Aug. 1, 2015, but those of us who drum know he didn’t, he just left the limelight. I guarantee he was tapping on something on Monday.

We knew there would be nothing new after he retired, but he was still walking the earth. He was still with us. Now there’s just an empty place behind the drum set and life in general.

The Shorts

*  You may recall I wrote about the Artrepreneur program the city and the county ran – oh about 4 months ago. A number of artists signed up for the 13 week program designed to help them learn about the business side of running their art careers. The program is over and its show and tell time with a showcase at the Opera House Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m.  

*  OMAH has the opening of a new exhibit Saturday with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m.  It’s called She Shoots… She Scores and it’s about women’s hockey (obviously) and coincides with the Ontario Winter Games here in Orillia. Special guests include Nathalie Rivard and Liz Knox. January 26 OMAH hosts Storytelling Orillia’s Side By Each monthly. This time guest speakers Ronda Hales and Stephanie Boyd (U.S.A. Women’s Hockey Team) will talk about women’s hockey at the 2 p.m. event.

OCI Girl’s Team, 1925, OMAH Collection

*  Last week I directed you to Bleeker’s new single, Disaster, and you should still check out the video out if you haven’t – but for the second week I have to say congratulations to the guys again. They are opening for Marianas Trench at Casino Rama Saturday night. And, we’ll find out next week if the video for their song Straight For The Money wins a Canadian Independent Music Video Award.

*  Roots North Music Festival has added Long Range Hustle as a participating venue act. They’ll be at the Brownstone for the April event. Get festival tickets here.

*  The 9th Mariposa Folk Festival Gospel & Blues concert is happening Feb. 8 at St. Paul’s Centre. Once again Lance Anderson is putting together the show. He’s got David VestSteve MarrinerAngelique Francis and Al Webster on board for the band. Get tickets online.

*  The Mariposa Folk Festival added Dala, Moscow Apartment, Moskitto Bar, Celeigh Cardinal, Diyet & The Love Soldiers and Moontricks to the summer festival line up. Get tickets here.  The annual audition concert doesn’t happen until April. Acts that want a shot should go here to apply. The deadline is Feb. 23.

 *  The Jubilee Chorale is rehearsing at a new venue, Sundial Lakeview Retirement Residence, and it’s a good time to dust off your pipes and join them. You’ve got time to warm up, their next concert is in May. Check them out every Wednesday between 7 and 9:15 p.m.

*  Hibernation Arts has a group show by young, under 40,  artists and a collection of work by Tammy Henry; this next gallery concert is with Caleb Kearey-Moreland Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. The next show, Love, is also a group show; if want in on it with your art, email Almost next door in the Arts District at Three Crows Speak gallery, Liz Schamehorn’s work is featured.

*  Jim Harris is booking musicians for the Farmers’ Market 2020 season. Shoot him an email to .

*  If you know who Martin Barre, Dee Palmer and Clive Barker are, then you’ll want to know they are playing at Peter’s Players Oct. 31. Of course, they were members of Jethro Tull and they will be playing from that playbook. I’m telling you now because I don’t expect tickets to be available for long. Happening sooner, Larry Gowan will be in Feb. 28. Gowan has been a part of Styx for a long time and on Jan. 10 he wasted no time at a Styx gig to take a moment to play tribute to another great Canadian. You can see Peter’s entire line up and get tickets here.

*  The Opera House has Mariposa Arts Theatre’s The Art of Dining opening Feb. 13. The Mudmen return for their annual concert Feb. 1. Get tickets online.

*  Coming up… the Hog ‘N Penny has trivia night with Bill Dunlop every Thursday evening; Papa John Witterick is in Saturday night… the Brownstone has Group Therapy (Caleb Kearey-Moreland) in Thursday night Friday night;  Road Waves are playing Saturday night; every Tuesday is Open Mic Night… Steph Dunn is at Tailwinds Jan. 26… The Jazz Byrds play Sanafir every Saturday evening… MAT’s next film night at the Galaxy is Feb. 5 with Official Secrets (Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes) at 4 and 7 p.m.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)

Added info – Roots North just announced Lydia Persaud Music is lined for the main stage at St. Paul’s Centre.

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