A Dissenting View on (and open letter to) Neil Peart

First of all, let’s talk about what this piece is not. It is not a criticism of Neil Peart, the drummer. My belief continues that he is one of the greatest drummers of all time, in any genre of music. As a lyricist, my belief continues that he is still one of the very best at writing thought provoking, philosophical, high-minded lyrics.

Something else this piece is not is one of politics. While it centers around some political criticisms made by Peart, I have no beef with the fact that he disagrees with a certain politician or certain political viewpoint. So any of you readers who do choose to comment here, please do not turn it into a political debate. Comments that attempt to do so will be yanked before they are ever seen.


Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the recent Rolling Stone cover story on Rush, and a statement or two in particular. Like this one:

 Peart says that it’s “very obvious” that Paul “hates women and brown people” — and Rush sent a cease-and-desist order to get Paul to stop quoting “The Trees” in his speeches.

Really, Neil? He hates women and brown people? On what do you base this ugly, nasty, ad hominem attack? What facts to you have to back up such an ugly smear. Was it this? Or maybe this? What about this? And this? It seems to me that it’s very obvious that the facts are in diametric opposition to your position that “he hates … brown people.”

Neil, aren’t you the guy who wrote lyrics decrying those “people who judge without a measure of mercy”? If you truly believe that, then why are you tarring someone with ugly, baseless accusations of racism and sexism? That looks like a textbook definition of judging without a measure of mercy.

You also wrote about those people who were “quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand.” And yet here you are joining such a crowd, as evidenced by your failure (or unwillingness) to consider any facts that contradicted your position, such as those linked above. Instead of thoughtful criticism, you go straight for the lowest common denominator. As a somewhat newly minted American citizen, congratulations – you’ll fit right in with the prevailing mode of political discourse in this country (insert slow, sarcastic clap here).

The songs “Wish Them Well” and “Witch Hunt” from which lyrics in the previous two paragraphs were derived would encourage the thoughtful listener to take the high road. Your baseless, race-baiting smear is taking the low road all the way. Honestly, I thought you were better than that. That kind of rhetoric is the type of crap I would expect from the various poo-flinging talking heads if I had the stomach to watch Fox News, MSNBC, or some other televised food fight. If there is one positive, at least you’ve given me another reason to be thankful that I’m a cord-cutter.

I wouldn’t feel any different about this if you had made a preposterous statement that Obama was born in Kenya, or an equally preposterous statement that Hillary hates men. Neither of those two people has a snowball’s chance in hell of making my favorite persons list. And still, I’d think anyone who uttered such things in seriousness would be guilty of the most baseless and ugly smearing as you are in regard to your statements about Paul. Unsubstantiated accusations of racism and sexism are no better than racism and sexism itself.

Look, I’m fine if you don’t like Rand Paul, or any other politician for that matter – after all, 99% of politicians give the rest a bad name. While there are things about him I like, there are others that give me great pause. As for me, my clear frontrunner is SMOD ’16 (Sweet Meteor of Death). But don’t mind me, when it comes to politics I’m one of the most cynical people around. I take exception to Ronald Reagan’s statement that, as the world’s second oldest profession, it bears a remarkable resemblance to the first, as I think such sentiments grossly unfair to oldest profession practicioners.

Still, I can’t help but be disappointed when I think about the example you’ve set and I’ve attempted to follow (poorly, often times, but hey, I try) through your lyrics and through the unshakable artistic integrity of you and your bandmates. As you well know, “The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect, so hard to earn so easily burned.” Reading through the comments section of the Rolling Stone piece online, I can see that I’m not the only one for whom you’ve burned some of that respect.

With regard to the craft of drumming, I know you have a great deal of humility. It’s a necessity for any drummer of your caliber to insist that he still needs to take lessons from others like Freddie Gruber. Perhaps you could let some of that humility bleed over into other spheres. If you do, maybe you’ll realize that there are ways to express political disagreement with those you oppose without descending into mud of ugly, baseless accusations of racism and sexism. Maybe you’ll realize that, whatever you think about Paul’s policy proposals, it’s completely unnecessary and counterproductive to accuse him of hating brown people and women, particularly when there are easily verifiable facts that say the exact opposite. Maybe, even you could get in touch with the man who wrote these words:

 A quality of justice

A quantity of light

A particle of mercy

Makes the color of right

Best Regards,

Erik A. Heter

Rush Fan since 1979 and at least until the day I die.

23 thoughts on “A Dissenting View on (and open letter to) Neil Peart

  1. carleolson

    Agreed! And I’m not a Rand Paul fan. But I thought Peart’s remarks were ridiculous; I was actually embarrassed for him. He’s an incredibly smart and talented guy, but some of his remarks on politics and religion are simply cringe-inducing, the sort of thing you expect to hear from a 19-year-old social studies major at the U of Oregon.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Erik Heter

      Carl – I agree emphatically about the cringe inducement of such remarks. Steven Wilson is another guy who does that. While I have immense respect for his talent and creativity, some of his comments on religion cross way over into banality.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve

    Pretty hard to disagree with anything you said. I wasn’t take aback too much by what Neil said because it’s what I’ve come to expect. He has a car collection easily in excess of a million dollars and you have to wonder if he salves whatever guilt he feels by giving money away to people he thinks are homeless.

    Actually, what was more bothersome was Alex coming across as a functioning alcoholic who abuses a wide variety of drugs. He also takes pretty potent arthritis medication so add that up and you have to wonder how much longer his body (and liver) can hold up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Erik Heter

      Thanks Steve. I don’t know what happens to motivates Peart, but you might be onto something.

      I didn’t have as much problem with Alex as you. Certainly, snorting coke and taking ecstacy are something to be strongly discouraged, it doesn’t seem like those things ever really “stuck” with him. If all he does is smoke weed on a regular basis, then he’s pretty tame by rock star standards. It’s not something to condone, but I’m not going to condemn him for that. As a musician, he still functions at a very high level (and sorry for the unintentional pun there!). As for the arthritis, I feel a great deal of sympathy for him because I’ve known other people affected by it, and if he’s out on the road playing shows every other night then it means he’s really sucking it up for the fans and I give him all the more credit for doing so.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Eric, this is one of the things I’m most passionate about. I can’t stand when smart people “go there” and just throw out the epithets. My bandmates and I wrote a song about this and it seems every few months I need to post the video (not the best but gets our point across) like a political “Rick Roll” when people get in the political mud. It’s one of Brad Birzer’s favs so I assume it’s ok! 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5YX3zFAm2g

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erik Heter

      Robert (aka Mr. Fat Cat Tax Cutter!) – That. Is. AWESOME!!! I had heard the song before but never knew a video existed for the same – thanks for posting. Mr. Peart could learn something from you guys. Well done!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. DW Fisher

    You’re preaching to the choir, although I don’t sing. Peart is talking about a politician. Of course it’s about politics. Yours is not an open letter if you are only open to views that resemble your own. That you can put on kid gloves and fool yourself about that contradiction does about not mean your frontal lobe is sufficient to override your emotion about this matter. Emotion is there for a very rational reason. The trick for all of us humans is to figure out what that emotion is trying to protect. If you stop looking only at what Rand Paul says at any given moment of time and instead see what his positions have been over the last many years, the truth in Peart’s position on Paul’s shifting reality becomes crystal clear. In other words, don’t let your desire to see only what you believe to be true override what is true. After all, we all know fortune favors the bold.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so glad you posted this Erik. I have to say that the RS article was an immense let down–not because it wasn’t well-written, but because Rush, who I’ve always felt rose above the muck, seemed to have so much in common with all of the other RS “rock stars” of days past, present, and presumably days future. Maybe this was the slant of the author. Or maybe this is one of the reasons that, in the past, Rush so often gave closely-guarded interviews.

    Maybe it is also worth remembering that although Neil has often seemed super-human in his drumming he is, as Geddy has insisted about each member of the band, just a guy who plays music for a living. As insightful as some of his lyrics are, there are at least some that he has had to retract or at least distance himself from over the years. Every fan knows his theme of “constant change” and he insists that he poses his lyrics as “questions.” (Not sure I buy that entirely but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt.) I wonder though, if all of those years of being derided in the press but hailed by fans has left a lingering cynicism and a presumption of motives of those with whom he disagrees. I would have to say his comment about Republicans wanting to deny health care to the needy was equally myopic. These are not well-thought out arguments.

    The difficult thing, as you point out, is that some of his strongest lyrics have been criticisms of others (sometimes quite angrily) of the very mistakes he appears to be making in his comments in Rolling Stone. This from a person who ostensibly values “the honest man.”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Erik Heter

      Thanks Kevin, great comment. A good friend of mine has a rule that he never wants to meet any of his heroes because he doesn’t want to be let down by them, and this provides a good justification for that rule. As I mentioned in a comment on the thread about the article itself and above when addressing Steve, I don’t have any real problems with the way Geddy or Alex came across, my beef was with Neil and the contradiction of his espoused high ideals and his rolling in the mud and making unsubstantiated smears of others. That’s just beyond the pale, *especially* for him.


  6. It’s also worth remembering that being on the cover of Rolling Stone is NOT a badge of honor. Rolling Stone is the absolute worst of the media elite. The rag’s main problem, of course, is that they think they are counter cultural. In fact, the magazine is the culture, and it always has been. Being on the cover of PROG means something. Being on the cover of ROLLING STONE does as well–but in the opposite direction.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Turd burger

    I just read Ghost Rider and wanted to throw in my two cents. Neil, your (common law) wife had CANCER. She didn’t die of grief. People can’t will themselves to get over TERMINAL CANCER. If she felt inconsolable after your daughter died and you didn’t feel she could get over it enough for you, part of that was probably because she had TERMINAL CANCER in her body, even if you didn’t know it at the time. It takes away everything from you. As a terminal cancer patient myself, I take offense to you implying a her broken heart caused it, as if there’s some way she could have ever just cheered up and gotten over it.


  8. Pingback: Cygnus Visits Local Record Store | Progarchy

  9. MrDreamTheater2

    Did not know about this episode with Peart. While it’s possible he genuinely changed his mind about politics, I find it more likely he was just pressured into becoming a progressive by the predominantly left-wing music industry and press.


  10. Charles U. Farley

    I guess with the passing of Mr. Peart (whose name the author and commenters of this article should not be allowed to speak), all the neocon Rush fans who got into Ayn Rand and then got pissed at Neil for ‘betraying’ them and turning ‘leftie’ will just have to take comfort in the fact that Ted Nugent is still alive. Oh, and I would trade Rand Paul for Neil Peart in a heartbeat.


    1. Erik Heter

      If you knew what the hell you were talking about, you’d know that neocons and Ayn Rand are an anathema to one another. You’d also know that there are other conservatives who are repulsed by BOTH Rand and Neocons. But you don’t know what the hell you are talking about, hence your incredibly ignorant comment.

      Sent from my iPhone

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bryan Morey

        Haha well said, Erik. Sorry I probably shouldn’t have approved that rude comment (I let it sit in the pending folder for over a month), but we’ve never been about censorship here so I let it through.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Joe M.

    I’m more than a bit late to the party here, but felt compelled to chime in.

    I remember when the now sadly late Neil Peart made those remarks, and I was also disappointed.

    I suspected at the time, and still do, that this might have had more to do with Peart, even as late as 2015, still feeling compelled to distance himself from any perception of him as having right of center political sympathies.

    Peart in particular and Rush in general were unfairly accused of having fascistic sympathies due to the early nods of affection to Ayn Rand in Peart’s lyrics.

    Peart was slow to get the memo that it was not considered cool to like Ayn Rand in the typically left of center rock music press, but once he did he did backflips to try to make up for it, such as the ridiculously implausible claim that the lyrics for “The Trees” had nothing to do with libertarian philosophy but were expected to be taken literally.

    So when a Republican, libertarian politician (Paul) associated himself so openly with Rush, I think Peart felt compelled to awkwardly virtue signal that he was a good liberal and nothing like that ‘racist sexist Paul’ etc. I don’t think Peart actually believed Paul was racist or sexist, he was just engaging in some unfortunate virtue signaling.

    Liked by 1 person


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