Last week, Neil Peart made headlines after suggesting that has retired from music. Speculation about Rush's future following their recent R40 tour has been rife for some time now and while the band's manager has since stated that they are committed to recording another album, full-scale touring is almost certainly off the cards.
Given the circumstances, Peart's decision to scale back his commitment to the band is fair enough. He's a father to a young daughter and chronic tendonitis has been giving him trouble in recent years. These things are the reality of life when getting older and, as awesome as Rush might be, family and health come first.
What does this mean for Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson? Both have expressed disappointment that R40 was most likely their final hurrah. And that's got me thinking. Could Geddy and Alex continue performing and recording as Rush without Neil Peart on board?
To Stay in the Limelight...
Certainly, there wouldn't be an absence of interest for the vacant position. While Peart is rightly regarded as one of the finest drummers in the history of popular music, there are players out there that could do him justice. The similarly prog-inclined Mike Portnoy is a name that immediately comes to mind, but there are many others.
Hell, if Neil Peart still wanted to be involved in the creative side of things but wasn't up to the rigors of full scale touring he could even do a Brian Wilson: play drums and write lyrics for the band's studio albums and then let someone else fill in for him on the road. Fans accepted it when the Who, Journey and Slayer carried on without core members. Rush could probably do the same, with the added bonus that Peart could still be creatively involved with the group.
Or Leave the Lighted Stage...
Without him, Rush could feasibly continue to sell out arenas and put on great live shows. It wouldn't be the same band, though, and that could be hard to accept, especially when you consider the band's impressive longevity up to this point.
Rush have managed to achieve what many bands have found impossible - keeping the same line-up together for most of their career. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have been Rush for 40 years. Neil might not be an original member (he replaced founding member John Rutsey in 1974) but he's been around since almost the beginning and his unique playing and thought-provoking lyrics are an integral part of the band's identity.
As Geddy, Alex and Neil, Rush have weathered ups-and-downs, triumph and tragedy. Perhaps most shocking of all, they have remained friends throughout.
In the world of rock 'n' roll, where egos often clash ferociously and petulantly, that's a rare and beautiful thing. Rush without Peart might still work but whether it could come close to replicating that amazing dynamic, I am unsure. I'd love to see Rush live (for one reason or another, I've never managed to catch them), but the last thing I want is a band called Rush that doesn't live up to the name. To walk away now is to do so with their heads held high and their legacy secured.
The possibility of more live Rush is enticing, especially for those of us who didn't get to catch them on their R40 tour. But all reigns must come to an end and the best rulers know when to step down. Perhaps the time has come for us to bid a farewell to kings after all.
By Alec Plowman