I’m writing this letter and Permanent Waves is playing in the background. You don’t know me and, with your passing on the 7th January 2020, I guess we will have to make our acquaintance in the next life.
I know you’re not going to read this letter.
I suppose this is more a letter for me than it is for you.
We never met backstage at a concert.
I never got to shake your hand or hear one of your anecdotes.
I never got a first hand glimpse at your insight; your sense of humour or your kindness.
I can’t demonstrate a passing association to you that I can turn into something that would suggest I knew the real you, the authentic, humble, intellectual you.
I can’t say with any authority that I knew you or got you or understood you. But I’d like you to know that you knew me, got me and understood me.
This is what your music did, and does.
You introduced me to new ideas and new worlds. You made it ok to be a reader and to learn to love literature and poetry and art and philosophy.
And drumming. My god, did you help me love drumming.
You understood teenage alienation and suburban ennui.
You knew what life I was leading and how hard it sometimes was to express teenage frustrations, the desire to escape, those eternal hopes and fears; of being young, of growing old, of loneliness. You understood the journey, because you, too, were on it.
You believed in love.
You soundtracked my youth, my twenties, my thirties, my forties. You brought light to the shade; you infected me with fire.
I just wanted to say thank you. I’m a middle-aged man and middle-aged men are not supposed to have heroes any more, are they?
Well, no matter. You were a hero to me. You were a hero to a lot of people, actually.
The past few days have been about a life well lived: about art and music and travel and memory. My friends don’t have a bad word to say about you; their friends, they don’t have a bad word to say about you either. Over the past few days since your passing, the one thing that is completely clear is the amount of love for you and your music and your lyrics. Love from Rush aficionados, casual fans, those who know Spirit of Radio but not much else, those who had never heard anything you’d done but knew, just knew, that you were THE MAN.
You were the best of us, Neil.
Know this: you were, and are, loved.
You did, and you will continue to matter. More, much more than you will ever know.
I hope you can take some pride in whatever journey you’re now on.
Thank you, sir.