Traveling as the Ghost Rider: An Excerpt from NEIL PEART: CULTURAL REPERCUSSIONS

Available now in paperback and ebook at
Available now in paperback and ebook at

In his best-selling book, Ghost Rider, the Canadian drummer not only proves to be an excellent writer (imagine Willa Cather and Jack Kerouac as one person; a bizarre combination, I know, but an accurate one), but he also reveals himself, yet again, a serious and stoic social and cultural critic.  Here are two sample passages from Ghost Rider.

The first day in Mexico was Selena’s birthday, and I had made careful plans on how to ‘memorialize’ that day. Early in the morning, I walked to the big cathedral in the Zocalo, went inside and bought two princess-sized votive candles (the biggest they had, of course) and lit them in front of the chapel for ‘Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe’ . . . . I sat there awhile, and cried some (well, a lot), amid the pious old ladies, tourists, and construction workers.[1]

Later in the book, in a less autobiographical nature, he explains his own vision of what art is.

I once defined the basic nature of art as ‘the telling of stories,’ and never had I felt that to be more true. I played the anger, the frustration, the sorrow, and even the travelling parts of my story, the rhythms of the highway, the majesty of the scenery, the dynamic rising and falling of my moods, and the narrative suite that emerged was as cleansing and energizing as the sweat and exertion of telling it.[2]

Each of these passages shows Peart at his deepest.  The side the craves beauty and the side that craves telling the world about the beauty he has seen.

His travels also opened Peart to a number of personal revelations.  Overall, he believed that “the elemental ‘faith’ in life I used to possess is completely gone,” and that with such an erasing of the past and its securities, “every little element of my former life, behavior, interests, and habits, was up for re-examination.”[3]  Two specifics also emerged in this rebirth.  First, he had to accept the help of others, recognizing it as the gift it is and was intended to be by the giver.  Pride had to give way to charity.  Second, he came to see a more mystical side of life, well beyond his previously steady devotion to late eighteenth-century European rationalism.  In one incident—that would greatly influence the next three albums—Peart encountered a man who read his fortune through Tarot cards.  The reading proved so accurate that Peart ‘s “jaw dropped, and it’s still dropping.”[4]

Though most orthodox religions forbid the reading of Tarot, artists as diverse as T.S. Eliot and Russell Kirk have employed its meaning—however tragic and deep or superficial and meaningless—effectively as a form of story telling, especially when regarding character and morals.  Peart does the same through his lyrics over the next several albums.

[Taken from Bradley J. Birzer, Neil Peart: Cultural (Re)Percussions (WordFire Press, 2015), pages 96-96.  Available today in paperback for $11.99 at  the price includes shipping.]


[1] Peart, Ghost Rider, 310.

[2] Peart, Ghost Rider, 355

[3] Peart, Ghost Rider, 146-147.

[4] Peart, Ghost Rider, 338-339.

One thought on “Traveling as the Ghost Rider: An Excerpt from NEIL PEART: CULTURAL REPERCUSSIONS

  1. BRAVO Sir-Brad!!! Thank-You for posting this!!! I’m always (well,not REALLY) amazed at the different perspectives from the “Professor”,on how he see visualizes things he SEES or things he does on a particular day,and manages to “write” those tellings,in such a PROFICIENT,DEEPLY-DETAILED and EXTREMELY Interesting way,that would make ANY WRITER,take NOTE!!! I LOVE all his writings and have usually found the way he perceives things,similar to how I perceive them as well!!! Of course………….to make someone “feel” something You describe in writing,with words…………..You have to describe it in a much more deep-seated,emotional way,rather than,just a “literal” way!!! In doing so………….You can open up a whole new world to the reader’s eyes and their views!!!




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