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This report is taken from PN Review 253, Volume 46 Number 5, May - June 2020.

Rush and Rand William Poulos
Neal Peart died in January. He was the drummer and lyricist for the progressive rock band Rush. The word ‘progressive’ here has nothing to do with politics: it describes a band with the energy and volume of rock music, but whose songs are often long and made of unusual structures and odd time signatures. Usual rock lyrics wouldn’t suit songs like these: a caricature of a progressive rock band depicts the singer reciting Lord of the Rings over a solo harpsichord. Most prog rock bands aren’t so – how else can I put it? – uncool, but don’t sing about drinking beer or touching women’s legs or driving fast cars.

Peart actually did write a song about driving a fast car, Red Barchetta, but it’s based on Richard S. Foster’s futuristic short story in which cars can withstand heavy impacts without hurting the driver. (In the song, the narrator has an old and now-illegal barchetta – a two-seater without a roof – that he drives every Sunday morning. One joyride turns into a chase as he flees two drivers in newer, safer cars trying to ram him.) Peart – affectionately known as ‘The Professor’ – was more bookish than most lyricists, and the lyrics for the twenty-minute-long song ‘2112’ (on the album of the same name) are based on Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem. Peart dedicated the song to ‘the genius of Ayn Rand’ and more impressive than his drumming ability was his ability to revive an interest in Ayn Rand’s ideas and writing – something no one else could ...

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