A couple of days ago, various music websites touched off an Internet shriekfest when they picked up on some comments Rush‘s Neil Peart had made in a piece he had written for Drumhead Magazine. The flurry of “Neil Peart has retired” headlines was prompted by Peart’s reference to his daughter Olivia‘s comments: “Lately, Olivia has been introducing me to new friends at school as ‘My dad — he’s a retired drummer.’ True to say, funny to hear.” He then quoted a line from a 1982 Rush song: “It does not pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to … take yourself out of the game. I would rather set it aside than face the predicament described in our song Losing It (Sadder still to watch it die, than never to have known it).”
Understandably, the immediate interpretation was that, yes, he had hung up the sticks. However, Geddy Lee was quick on the draw with clarification and reassurance. According to Lee, what Peart had written was just a confirmation of what we’ve been hearing for the past few years — that Peart no longer wants to devote months on end to touring, which had been the formula for Rush over their 40 year career. In a nutshell: Peart is retired from touring, not from the band. “I think Neil is just explaining his reasons for not wanting to tour with the toll that it’s taking on his body,” he said, referring to the tendonitis that has plagued Peart in recent years.
There’s also the family angle. As Peart said a couple of years ago, “Honestly, people don’t realize the sacrifices you make as a touring musician. Being away when children are growing up and when your partner needs you around, it’s wrenching.”
Lee says that Peart’s comments about retirement have been misconstrued and sensationalized. “That’s how it all goes in the media,” he says. “Talking about something when there’s nothing to talk about.” He stresses that Rush will continue as a band, although he admits that he doesn’t know for how long that will be the case. As he said earlier this year, “Can we go on forever? Clearly not. And if it’s the end, it’s going to happen in bits and pieces. If we can’t go out and do a massive tour in the future because everyone can’t agree on that, there’s nothing to say we can’t do another record or one-off shows here and there.” He adds now, “All we can do is enjoy what time we have left.”