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Neil Peart, the longtime drummer for the Canadian band Rush, died last week of brain cancer, leaving behind a legacy as one of rock's most technically accomplished percussionists and perhaps its most articulate libertarian lyricist. The 67-year-old songwriter regularly championed individualism, choice, and freedom over soul-crushing conformity.
Early Rush songs are saturated with such messages. The song "Freewill," released on 1980's Permanent Waves album, puts self-determination at the root of the human experience: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."
Trees - Years - Peart - Forest - Maple
In "The Trees," released two years earlier, Peart tells a fable about a forest where the maple trees demand to be made equal with the taller oaks. It doesn't go well:
and demanded equal rights.
"The oaks are just too greedy.
We will make them give us light."
for they passed a noble law.
by hatchet, axe, and saw.
Peart - Individualism - Line - Rush - Hit
Sometimes Peart's individualism could be compressed into a single line, as in Rush's 1981 hit "Tom Sawyer": "No, his mind is not for rent/to any god or government."
Rush's 1976 album 2112, which Peart dedicated to the "genius of Ayn Rand," tells the story of a futuristic theocracy that outlaws individualism and creativity, including the electric guitar. Rand's novel The Fountainhead had a particularly heavy influence on Peart, who described the affinity he felt for the book's protagonist in a 1997 interview with Scott Bullock for Liberty...
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