"Monday 5 Things" with D. Paul Graham


Monday 5 Things…..Paradiddles…..

It was a blustery day in Toronto in the early 90s, and I was chiding myself for not getting my head and hands to syncopate on a new paradiddle my drum teacher had me working on. With my drumsticks tucked under my arm, I got into the elevator of my condo and a voice behind me said, “so you’re a drummer, huh?” I turned and my jaw dropped. It was Neil Peart. I stammered that “no, I’m not a drummer – I can’t even figure out a new paradiddle!” To my surprise he said, “show me.” I could only simply stare… he laughed and said, “show me the paradiddle.” So, I started to bang it out on the wall of the elevator. Long story short, we went up and down the elevator until I had it figured out. It was the best drum lesson I ever had. The drumming world lost one of the best last Friday. This morning’s M5T beats out an homage to Neil Peart and his influence on drummers, even wannabe drummers in elevators, everywhere.

1. Change is Necessary.

Starting from their first self-titled album in 1974 and lasting over 40 years, Canadian band Rush underwent genres ranging from hard rock, progressive rock, new wave and even some reggae, returning to their rock beginnings before they stopped recording and touring. With Peart’s distinctive backbeats and lyrics, the trio’s music was complex, audacious and hard-driving. Lyrics spanned science fiction, mythology, philosophy and social consciousness with metaphorical and theatrical themes. Peart’s drumming styles defined the various changes of the band and demarcated trends in the rock world.

2. Leadership is Essential.

Drummers are a great example of leadership. Drummers provide the backbeat, the timing, the vibe and the groove of the band. Without good timing laid down by a drummer, a band will be lost, out of step. A good drummer understands the nuances of the rest of the band members and brings out the strengths of the other players. Peart was an example of one of the best who displayed humility, gentlemanliness and graciousness.

3. Never Stop Learning.

The ebb and flow of Peart’s wild time signatures, crazy fills, changing tempos, and complex arrangements made Peart one of the world’s top masters of his craft. Despite this, Peart never stopped learning and trying to expand his talents. He started drum lessons at the age of 13 in St. Catherines, Ontario with drum teacher Don George. (Peart kept in touch with George to discuss drumming techniques until George died.) In the mid 90s, Peart studied under jazz-great Freddie Gruber. In 2007, he started taking lessons from another Gruber alumni, jazz-fusion drummer Peter Erskine, and continued to build on the foundations of syncopation he had learned through the years. In his book "Traveling Music: The Soundtrack to My Life and Times," Peart wrote, “It is said that the man who claims to be self-educated has a fool for a teacher, but I have learned from literally hundreds of people in music, in reading, and in life, and they became part of the continuum that continues to inspire to drive me onward and upward.”

4. Be Poetic.

Peart wrote most of the lyrics for Rush. His lyrics drew images in our minds wrapped in music from Lee and Lifeson. Growing up, I would often read the lyrics in liner notes and head to the library to understand what Peart had written about in the songs. The best way to describe the poetic brilliance of this amazing drummer are found (in no particular order) in the songs 'Anthem" "Tom Sawyer," "YYZ," "Subdivisions," "Xanadu," "Freewill," “The Big Money," "Bastille Day," "Something for Nothing" and "New World Man" to name but a few.

5. Sometimes You Have to Lose Yourself.

By the late 90s Rush had reached a pinnacle of success that few bands can even dream of. But success doesn’t correlate to an easy life. In 1997, Peart’s nineteen-year-old daughter died in a car accident; 10 months later, his wife died of cancer. Peart took a hiatus from the band and left Montreal on his motorcycle to travel across Canada to Alaska, down through the United States and through Mexico to Belize. Peart said he had lost himself and stayed alive by moving. It was on this 55,000 mile journey that he found his will to live and a renewed desire to continue performing with Rush. His bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson did not know when or even if Peart would return to the band. They did not perform without him. Peart returned after almost five years and the band started recording and performing again in 2002. His book "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road" is worth the read about tragedy and self-discovery.

Here’s to a week of driving around in your car with Rush playing as loud as your ears can tolerate and to heaven’s band getting all the much better.

© 2020 D. Paul Graham, all rights reserved.

D. Paul Graham is passionate about people, culture, photography and business. He has embraced his wanderlust with his travels around the globe and is at peace with his need for spirited drives in all things automotive.

You can find M5T each Monday here on www.southmag.com and by friending D. Paul Graham on Facebook. Paul is also a contributing photographer to South Magazine. His photographic work can be found on Instagram @dpgraham and at www.imageGRAHAM.com. Your feedback is always welcome. Email Paul at dpg@imagegraham.com