I didn’t know he had died until someone casually mentioned it several days later. When I found out, I was shocked and stunned.
It wasn’t the kind of heartrending grief you feel when someone close to you dies, but more like the strange feeling that something really important is gone forever and the world will never be quite the same.
Neil Peart, drummer and songwriter for the band Rush, was not only one of the greatest drummers to ever live, but he also wrote incredibly poetic lyrics that blended perfectly with the band’s progressive rock sound.
He died in early January, after the band had formally retired just a few years earlier.
But it wasn’t a drug overdose or even a plane crash that took his life — like you might expect for a rock musician — but brain cancer.
I guess it’s inevitable. All the good musicians (you know, the ones who made real music in the 60s, 70s and 80s) are getting old or are already gone. Still others, such as rock guitar legends Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton, are probably going to retire soon due to health problems. Peart himself foretold it in the lines of one of his songs: "...we're only immortal for a limited time."
I can still picture all my favorite band members and guitar players from the 70s and 80s. In my mind they are still young and skinny with that cool, long hair.
For those of you who grew up in the CD or MP3 decades, you need to understand how different it was growing up with vinyl records. For one thing, it wasn’t just about the music. The album jackets — which often opened like a book — were a big part of the experience. We didn’t have the internet, so often our only images of the band and its members often came from pictures on the album covers. Not only that, but the covers were often works of art, which teased your imagination while you listened to the music. So, we sat and listened while looking at the album covers until the images were burned into our minds.
And those images still linger, despite the passage of several decades. Sure, I know those guys are human and age like everyone else. But they are also icons, symbols of youth and music and dreams. Seeing them now is a startling jolt of reality — a reminder that even if time stands still when you listen to the music, it keeps marching on in real life.
Those days are now long gone, along with much of the music that made them great. It’s been replaced with new music that for the most part seems stupid, silly and senseless.
It’s enough to make a person feel old, to make you long for the “good ol’ days.”
Sometimes I wonder, is it inevitable that people will look back on the music of their youth and think that that music was the best? But then I come to my senses: No, the music of the 60’s, 70s and 80s really was superior, regardless of which generation you live in. It’s just a fact that can’t be denied.
I’m partially kidding, of course, but also partially serious.
Can you imagine someone in 50 years looking back at today’s rap or country and saying that it was a pinnacle of musical expression? Of course not.
It’s true, something really important is disappearing and the world will never be quite the same.
But, then again, vinyl records came back. Maybe good music will too.
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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.