And then, the music stopped.
August 10th, 1997, Peart's 19-year-old daughter, Selena, was
killed in a car accident en route to beginning her freshman year
of college. His wife Jackie never recovered from that emotional blow,
and just 10 months later, she passed away, too. "The doctors called
it cancer, but of course it was a broken heart," Peart later wrote.
Suddenly alone, and stricken with grief at the loss of his loved ones,
Peart told his bandmates to consider him retired and set out on an
epic 14-month, 55,000 mile motorcycle journey. A journey that ended
happily when he met and ultimately married Carrie Nuttall, a fine-art
photographer whose work, "Rhythm and Light" (www.carrienuttall.com)
captures her husband back at work in the studio. Peart chronicled
his adventures in Ghost Rider, and in a song by the same name on Rush's
long-awaited new album, Vapor Trails.
That album is a milestone
in that it marks the return of the man who Modern Drummer magazine
voted "Best Rock
Drummer" so many times he was finally retired to his own personal
Hall of Fame. And the man who, during his self-imposed "exile" didn't
touch the drums for two years.
Equally significantly, it marked
the return of rock music's most thought-provoking lyricist,
because while it's bassist Geddy Lee's voice that you hear,
it's Peart's words; with rare exceptions, he's written every
lyric since joining the band for their second album, Fly By
Night, in 1975.
Taking his penchant for the written word to
the next level, Peart in 1996 penned The Masked Rider, about
a bicycle journey through West Africa. Though an entertaining
read, with colorful imagery and no shortage of the author's
thoughts and observations, that effort was rather impersonal
- his family and band mates barely rated a mention.
Rider, however, Peart bares his soul, candidly detailing his
progress on what he calls "The Healing
Road." A heady read
destined to rank alongside Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,
the book works on three levels, appealing to Rush fans, motorcycle
tourers and, perhaps most importantly, to anyone who's ever
suffered the loss of a loved one. Motorcycling, as many of
us have come to know, is therapeutic.
How therapeutic, I'm
in the process of finding out. We'd rendezvoused the previous
morning at a truck stop off I-40 in Gallup. By this point,
I'd been in touch with Peart's publisher, publicist, and security
manager, but I'd not actually spoken to the man himself. And
as I approached the tour bus door, there was only one Rush
lyric on my mind. It was from a song called "Limelight" on
the 1981 Moving Pictures album, about the harsh reality of
fame: Living in a fisheye lens, Caught in the Camera eye, I
have no heart to lie, I can't pretend a stranger is a long-awaited
And so it was with a apprehension that I knocked. An
anxious few moments passed, and then Neil himself threw open
the door and greeted me with a warm handshake and a smile.
He quickly proved to be an educated CW reader, a fan of Kevin
Cameron and well aware of Off-Road Editor Jimmy Lewis' exploits
in the Dakar Rally and my reputation as the staff Italophile-never
mind that I was aboard a BMW F650GS for this outing. Neil himself
had owned a Ducati 916, which he kept parked in the living
room of his lakefront home in Quebec, but had traded it in
along with a K1200RS to purchase his current mount. He kept
the original Christmas present RS for sentimental reasons,
and the R1100GS he rode during the making of Ghost Rider now
serves as a backup bike, parked alongside his and Michael's
newer R1150GSs in the trailer.