Is Rush drummer Neil Peart a "total dickhead" for refusing to engage with his fans?

Ear of Newt recently posted a couple of blogs on Rush drummer Neil Peart regarding his appearance on Late Night With David Letterman last week, where he performed a lengthy solo to conclude the talk show’s “Drum Solo Week”. Most of the subsequent comments from readers were about how fantastic a player Peart was, and where he stands as far as the world’s all-time greatest drummers are concerned. But not everyone was 100-percent complimentary toward the 58-year-old skinbasher.

“One of the best drummers of all time but this guy is a total dickhead,” commented James Johnson on the second blog. “He won’t do meet and greets and absolutely hates when fans approach him or even say hi. This corksucker forgets who buys his cd’s and dvd’s and pay their hard earned money to watch Rush concerts. He claims he’s shy but also goes on about not wanting to interact with the people that made him rich. No class what so ever and believe me I am a Rush fan since 1976.”

Johnson’s fervent Peart-bashing reminded me of what happened about ten years or so ago, when I sent to see Rush play General Motors Place (now called Rogers Arena), performing 2112 in its entirety. The show was awesome, it goes without saying, but I remember going backstage afterwards for the meet ”˜n’ greet and being a little disappointed when only Geddy and Alex ambled out to say howdy and sign some autographs. The good news was that I had brought along my vinyl copy of the first Rush album--the only one Peart didn’t play on--so in a way it was apt that he didn’t show up. I would have had to wrestle the felt pen away from him: “No, no—you can’t sign it! Only John Rutsey can sign it!" (Original Rush drummer Rutsey passed away in May of 2008.)

Now, if I’d brought along a beer-stained copy of Hemispheres or maybe Moving Pictures—which Rush will perform in its entirety at Rogers Arena on June 30—I might have been a little perturbed by Peart’s absence. And I’m not one of the millions of hardcore Rush fans who’ve passionately followed them from day one. I enjoy a lot of their tunes and totally admire the band for its musicianship and for how it’s bucked trends and found huge success on its own terms, but I’m far from the biggest Rush fan in the world. Still, I’ve always wondered if it would kill the guy to saunter out and spend two minutes communicating with the fans who live and breathe his music. Maybe it would. Maybe his phobia of social interaction with Rush freaks is just too much for him to bear.

If that’s the case, then let’s just leave the poor guy alone. We’re not the boss of him. And if he’d rather hang around backstage counting his drums than spreading the love, so be it. That doesn’t make him a dickhead, does it? Or a “corksucker”, whatever that is.

You can follow Steve Newton on Twitter at twitter.com/earofnewt.

Comments (57) Add New Comment
Samuel Scott
I would say that he is not a total dickhaed. Neil is genuinely shy and up-close adulation by individuals he doesn't know make him feel awkward and even irritated. He once stated that he never would have dreamed of approaching Keith Moon, even though he idolized Moon at the time. He's just not comfortable in such settings and also, I believe he very much does value his fans and their lifelong support of him and Rush.
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Steve Newton
I would tend to agree, Sammy. From what I've seen of the guy on film and such he seems like a decent human bean.
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Neal Braatz
After returning to Rush, following the deaths of his wife and daughter, Neil asked Geddy and Alex if it was OK to opt out of press conferences and meet and greets because he didn't want to face the inevitable "how are you doing" questions. Alex and Geddy, thrilled that Neil was willing to come back, agreed to handle all the public relations without him. As for his "standoffish" behavior, I think only those who have toured and have had to deal with fame for over 30 years have the right to judge. None of us knows what that's like. If I had a bunch of strangers constantly approaching me like they were my best friend, I might be a bit reclusive too.
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Sarah M
In early interviews of the band, Peart always made a comment about how much he appreciated the fans and how the band would not have gotten as far as they have without them. I too know that the reason why he does not do interviews is because of his troubled past. And rightly so. It is difficult for anyone to go through what he has let alone be in the 'limelight' at the same time. True fans know that the reason he seems "standoffish" is to protect himself and is not a direct representation of his feelings towards his fans and they don't take it personal. But, at the age of 21 I can only speak through my 21 years of dedication to the band.
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Therzo38
Fuck his "fans"! It's about music. He doesn't owe anyone a damned thing.
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rolldabonz
He has like 4 published books that you can read. There you can get more inside info on how he lives his life and the way he is. He does not do interviews but you can get to know him better than a lot of artists out there be reading his books. That is his way of reaching out to his fans. Too bad many people do not read.
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JohnDoe
No, he's not. These people that think that should either watch the Rush documentary "Beyond the Lighted Stage" where he discusses that at length, or the song "Limelight" which encompasses his feelings about this matter entirely. His line about how he "can't pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend" is about as accurate as it gets. He's very shy, and anything more than respect like adulation and worship embarrasses him. Geddy has even said that he's not out to hurt anyone's feelings, or turn people down, it just makes him feel awkward.
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Rating: +10
Alan Ogkid
My dad was a state cop, and once while he was off-duty he was told by an obnoxious, entitled dork "hey, you work for me, my taxes pay your salary", my dad handed the guy a quarter and told him "we're even, now shut the fuck up."

James Johnson gets a CD or concert in exchange for his money. For meet and greet he gets to meet and greet two of the greatest musicians of all time who are willing to participate in the sessions. Why is there a problem? Or does somebody need to hand James Johnson his $7 back and tell him to shut the fuck up?


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bill
I learned a long time ago to seperate the artist from the art. You'll never get what you want from them if you don't. Personally, I want to thank Neil for entertaining me for all these years and let him live his life the way he wants so he can continue to do that for many more years.
What's more interesting is that the only way this guy can get his name and article to the top of the Google search is by attaching it to Neils. I won't even scroll back to the top of the page to check his name. Whatever your name article writer guy, you are the dickhead.
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Pat Crowe
I watched From The Lighted Stage and my opinion of Neal is that he has a social disorder that precludes his ability to play the game with strangers. He is very nerdy and excels in his chosen fields. He loves his bike, his drumming and his literature. However he does poorly in social situations. Not that I am a doctor but I have experience in spotting these people.
I think he is an Aspy. As a world class musician that would be to his and our benefit.
Famous Aspies. Bill Gates. Albert Einstein. Tom Hanks. Dan Akroyd. Syd Barret. I know Charlie was back in the Arbutus days as well. Charlie. You freak.
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Lanny Fisher
I should remind people that they money they pay for Neil Peart's salary vis-í -vis CDs, DVDs and concert tickets are getting exactly what they've paid for: CDs, DVDs and concert tickets. You are paying for the fruits of his amazing talent. You are not paying for Neil Peart. He doesn't belong to you, you are not a shareholder of him as a person, and your money was not for a meet-and-greet opportunity with Neil Peart. If his music isn't good enough for you, then don't buy it, and stop complaining. If the guy says he is uncomfortable around people, he is obviously uncomfortable around people, and thus he should not force himself into something that will create a great deal of anxiety. Leave Neil Peart alone!
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William Simone
The man is an amazing musician, lyric writer, and person. I was introduced to him in high school by my drum corp. To say that I wanted to play drums like him is an understatement (sorry percussionist would be the correct term for us...we're not just drummers!) I wanted to play like him. People like him are meant to move us...not be at our feet at meet n greets. They are inspiration..He inspired me. I finally got the YYZ solo down..nowhere near as clean as him though
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Don Cummiings
Read his blog, he sends out drum sticks to fans at the shows all the time, the only thing he owes me is a good performance when I've payed for my concert ticket. Most of the fans I see at the concerts( the ones running to the toilet, or concession during the show) are the only dickheads I see.
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Phil Simon
He shouldn't have to apologize for wanting his privacy. He's not rude; he just needs his space.
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P Smith
Does peart get drunk? Fail to show up on time? "Phone in" a performance? Become abusive and insulting to the fans and media?

No, not a single one of the above. He's a shy, introverted and doesn't like people who feel as if they know him or want to worship him. That should be admired, not admonished. Those who criticize Peart for wanting to maintain his privacy are obviously too dimwitted to read Peart's lyrics - specifically, "Limelight".
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jason
the answer in short is No. he has been around long enough to have earned privacy. all i want from the man is for him to continue to write and play great music, and i am satisfied
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Daniel Gerrold
Let's remember one very important point: Neil fortified his defenses considerably upon returning from his 5-year hiatus, and it doesn't take much thought to realize why. There will always be some buffoon with an inappropriate question about his tragic losses. Even if it's just condolences, would you want to be subjected to that everywhere you go--especially from strangers? He's making music again, and I'm content with that. Neil is on record in numerous interviews saying he enjoys meeting people; he does it every day on his motorcycle journeys. But he likes to do it on equal ground, where he can be more confident that some self-proclaimed Neil Peart expert won't ambush him.
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Zack DeGonia
Neil is not a jerk. Hes a shy guy seriously, and hes been through alot. He doesnt want the whole losses of his wife and daughter to be brought up and which I can understand that. I would feel the same way if I was in his shoes. He is a good guy and likes his space.
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Rob78
Not a bad guy. Treats everyone pretty equally so its hard to be offended. U got a better shot of speaking to neil on neutral ground and dont tell him u know who he is...Just enjoy the moment and live in it
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Gentleman Jack
I always thought Rush sounded stand-offish.

Now I know why!
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