As an impressionable listener of terrestrial radio, YHC grew up a fan of classic rock artists. No one shredded like King Edward (Van Halen), no one channeled angst and yearning like The Boss (Bruce Springsteen) and no one riffed like Slowhand (Eric Clapton).
Among these legends, one artist in particular fascinated YHC, a member of a band that went on to greatness, but which back in the 1970s was not yet mentioned in the same breath as Led Zeppelin, Boston, The Stones, The Who, Kiss, etc. This artist was best known for his prodigious drumming, and indeed, if you search lists of “rock’s greatest drummers,” you’ll consistently find him near the top. But Neil Peart of Rush blew YHC’s mind with something far more powerful than percussion – his words.
Peart joined Rush in 1974 and began composing its lyrics. Let’s do a quick comparison to assess his impact on the band’s messaging. This is from the Rush single You Can’t Fight It, pre-Peart:
“Rock and roll ’til you lose control, go down, fall down, not too far,
You can’t fight it! You can’t fight it!
Now that you move you can do my part of pounding! (YHC: I am not making this up)
Rock your shoes ’til you lose your cool, shake your soul, yeah, lose control, yeah,
You can’t fight it! You can’t fight it!”
And this from the single Freewill, written by Peart:
“A planet of playthings, we dance on a string,
Of powers we cannot perceive.
The stars aren’t aligned, or the gods are malign.
Blame is better to give than receive.”
A bit of a difference, eh? Peart was sly (“If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice”), percipient (“Some are born to move the world to live their fantasies, but most of us just dream about the things we’d like to be”) and as us nerds appreciated, relatable (“In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, be cool or be cast out”).
Pop songs are about love. Rock songs are about sex. Country songs are about the heartache of your best friend absconding with your girl, your dog and your beer. Rush songs speak to what no one ever thought to address. Peart’s topics were as broad as his insights deep. Read the lyrics of Subdivisions for a stinging treatise on anti-conformism… Time Stand Still for a poignant plea drawn from reflection on the suddenness of aging… The Trees for commentary on social unrest fostered by inequality… The Manhattan Project for a lament of the birth of the nuclear age… The Pass for a demythologization of the misguided romanticism distraught teens naively assign to suicide.
Peart was prolific. Outside of Rush, he wrote seven books, including Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. It’s a moving memoir, recounting how Peart dealt with the deaths of his teenage daughter and his wife within ten months of each other in the late 1990s. An avid rider, Peart one day mounted his BMW motorcycle and set off, physically traveling 55,000 miles through the Americas and emotionally journeying through his grief. It’s a sad read but ultimately uplifting in its affirmation of the resilience of the human spirit in the wake of shattering loss.
As a songwriter, Peart penned the lyrics for 80+ Rush songs. For the purpose of F3, we’ll home in on one of his better-known gems, Closer to the Heart. If, by chance, you are not familiar with the song, cue it up (YHC highly recommends the live version from the album Exit, Stage Left). It’s progressive rock at its finest, and embedded in it is a simple blueprint for a meaningful life. Peart calls on government leaders (“The men who hold high places”), blue-collar workers (“the blacksmith… the ploughmen”), artists and philosophers, encouraging all “to know his part… to sow a new mentality, closer to the heart.”
The meaning? Across all stations in life, no matter what we do, we all possess the potential – and should feel the obligation – to play some role, big or small, in creating a better world by following our hearts; by acting on what we know to be true and right and kind and decent, versus what we perceive to be the acceptable or the expected, or, even worse, lazily embracing the easy or the convenient. Peart offers a model of what he describes as this “new reality” in the song’s closing stanza:
“You can be the captain, and I will draw the chart.
Sailing into destiny, closer to the heart.”
In other words, let’s do this together! Let’s embark on a journey to better this world, with our guide the good within us – our hearts, our humanity. Let’s use our own special talents gifted to us by the SkyQ to in some way help someone. Small act, profound act, whatever – it’s all good, and doing good, well, that’s what matters.
Neil Peart died January 7, 2020. He was 67. Double respect and RIP.
On to the workout…
Little Baby Mosies (around the flagpole, 2x each direction), Michael Phelps, SSH, Reacher, Hillbilly.
Grab a cinderblock. Some debate over how much they weigh – 33 lbs? 38 lbs?
Crazy Eight(teen)s: Why 18? Eight just wasn’t enough… The set: 18 incline merkins; 18 decline merkins; 18 tricep (close hands) merkins, 18 coupon squats, 18 dips w/ feet on blocks. Had planned on repeating this at the end around the circle but ran out of time.
Block Walk, Part I. Begin walking from flagpole with block overhead, doing presses, in cadence, to the near opening of second parking lot. Stop for 1-min wall sit against poles with block in lap or overhead. Then stop 2x more for one-legged hip bridge, 20 per leg, and one round of mountain climbers, 25 per leg.
Burpee / Coupon Squat Ladder: Run to second island, 7 burps, run back do 7 squats w/ block; then run back for 6 burps, and then back for 6 goblets, and so on.
Core Work: 30 seconds on, 10 seconds break of the following:
o Side plank right leg raise
o Side plank left leg raise
o Forearm plank
o Feet to Heaven
o Side plank, right hip raise
o Side plank, left hip raise
I’m Goin’ Down: Much to the dismay of Doink, we suspended the Rush music temporarily for another blast from the past, Bruce Springsteen’s I’m Goin’ Down from his Born in the USA album, which came out while G-Train was still in diapers. (YHC believes G-Train is out of diapers but is disinclined to check.) Every time Bruce sang “down,” we did half a merkin – in other words, lowering our bodies – and then we he sang “down” again, we came back up into plank position. It seemed unanimous — the Pax reveled, almost giddily, in this delightful mix of planks and merkins! Or so YHC thought. We took a break during the Clarence Clemons sax solo and then the knives came out with Dollar Bill verbally bludgeoning “the big man,” as Clemons was known, for an improperly short solo. We came close to finishing the song out but not quite, as YHC, whose core is more akin to a slice of Velveeta cheese than a length of steel rebar, was about to faceplant with ~ 30 seconds to go. A toughie… This one may re-emerge at a future workout. #unfinishedbusiness
Block Walk, Part II. Walk back to circle, curling the blocks in cadence – the count is pulse pulse pulse, one. Two sets of lunges (front leg on block) and some LBCs mixed along the way.
We returned to the flag and returned the blocks, and noticed that there has been a fatality among the other blocks, with one smashed into multiple pieces. Let’s hope this isn’t a trend, as these are wonderful toys. (Thank you Duck and Outhouse, I believe.)
Referencing Closer to the Heart, YHC encouraged the pax to do a good deed today, big or small, and see if they can build on it tomorrow. Prayers offered. Thanks for coming out, gentlemen, it’s always a pleasure. And with that, in honor of some of the baseball mumblechatter today, this is YHC saying he’s waaay back…. deep to center… and YHC is… gone!