Neil Peart – 1952-2020

By: Drew Hallenbeck

This Guy, Neil Peart. Not much more can be said about his virtuosic and influential playing in the progressive rock arena, his thought provoking lyrics and the number of people he’s influenced to create a lot of great music that has continued and will continue to shape rock and roll. But what this guy meant to me is more profound than I would like to admit for basically being a stranger. (“I can’t pretend a stranger Is a long awaited friend” as he penned in Limelight.)

Those of you who know me know my affinity for Rush. If there is a tid bit of news on the band, people are messaging me to make sure I know. The crazy part of it is that it is quite likely that most of those people I probably wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for Neil himself. My network of close friends and acquaintances mostly consists of people I have met through playing music. The trajectory that Rush, and specifically Neil sent me on starting at the green and moldable age of 8 is something that I could not have even imagined.

The person I am, the choices I made and the friends I have, has undoubtedly been in some way, shape or form due to the countless hours of air drumming to Necromancer, 2112, and Natural Science in my room as a kid. This ultimately led to my love affair with music, becoming a musician and meeting so many awesome people that are now some of my best friends.

Whether it was the early days of jamming in my basement with Andrew Lauzon and Nik Spilka. The indelible mark my highschool teacher Stanley Szymkow had on me. To meeting Wayne Reid in Sarnia while in college and being there during the infancy of Rumblefish. Then later joining the band Reason Disappears with My brothers from another mother Bob Mather, Andrew, Greg Olsen, Jeff Rosiana and Mark Kasaboski. Having the great opportunity to work with Jag Tanna on a Reason D record, someone I admired musically. This ultimately led to playing guitar with Alex J Robinson which was managed by Kim Zayac where I met Kevin Birch. This led down a path of a lot of shows with Grüv Fünktion and Marshall Dane. A spin off from that universe was Toronto Party Band with Jason Azevedo and Mike Kosowski. To my current day band Imperial Ashes with Nick Chiarore and Rayna Elizabeth (and Greg and Andrew – the brothers from another mother). I met my wife Gillian Grossman on a dating site in 2006. Why? Because her occupation said “Musician”. My relationship with my brother Greg Hallenbeck is almost exclusively defined for our shared love of Rush and the countless number of shows we went to together over the last 30 years.

Look at that list of names. Crazy, right? All these people, most who are still my best friends and people I absolutely admire… all because of Neil.

So Neil, as I quoted your lyric earlier from Limelight “I can’t pretend a stranger Is a long awaited friend”. You didn’t need to pretend. I know that this lyric was about your guarded relationship with fame but have no doubt, that even as a stranger, your affect on me was unimaginably profound.

It seemed weird to me yesterday, how the death of a stranger affected me. But after thinking about it, and now listing all these names here that I may have not met had I not bought Caress of Steel at 8 years old…. it was actually perfect, not weird at all.

Thanks Neil.

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