On Jan. 7, drummer, lyricist, motorcyclist and writer Neil Peart died from brain cancer. To the music world, he was one of the greatest drummers and percussionists ever. To the motorcycling world, he was a motorcycle enthusiast. To his fans, he was a hero.
As the drummer for rock trio Rush, the band was different than the other groups in the 70s. They were the nerd squad. On tour, Rush was known for reading books, playing tennis and baseball, visiting museums and talking science fiction and philosophy. To them, the band was about the music and being the best.
In 1997, tragedy hit. Neil's 19-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident, and nine months later, his wife died from cancer. Shortly after that, he packed up his BMW 1100GS and started riding. Absent for years, he traveled over 55,000 miles across the Americas. In 2002, he released the book, "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road." The book documented his journey of grief, motorcycle life and healing. In the end, he found love and returned to the band and work. The motorcycle community took note.
It was no secret that Neil disliked touring and the notoriety of stardom. After a show, Neil would escape to his tour bus, and the band would pull into a place they called the "Chateau Walmart" for the night. The next morning, he would ride off to the next venue.
As a lyricist, once Neil joined the band in 1968, he wrote all of Rush's lyrics with over 75 songs to his credit. Rush's most popular sounds were "Tom Sawyer," "The Spirit of Radio" and "Working Man." Over time, Neil wrote seven books, including four about motorcycling. Rush retired in 2015 with a 40-year tour.
In June 1994, The Standard wrote about him growing up in St. Catharines, Canada. In the article, Neil said, "And in a world which is supposed to be so desperate for heroes, maybe it's time we stopped looking so far away. Surely we have learned by now not to hitch our wagons to a 'star,' not to bow to celebrity. We find no superhumans among actors, athletes, artists or the aristocracy, as the media are so constantly revealing that our so-called heroes from Prince Charles to Michael Jackson, are in reality, as old Fred Nietzsche put it, 'human — all too human.' … And maybe the role models that we really need are to be found all around us, right in our own neighborhoods. Not some remote model of perfection which exists only as a fantasy, but everyday people who actually show us, by example, a way to behave that we can see is good, and sometimes even people who can show us what it is to be excellent."
In an article in Inc., Neil told the reporter, "Never follow anyone, be your own hero."