Monday, April 6, 2015

C is for Closer to the Heart

Long-time blog readers will know that I'm a die-hard fan of the Trio from Toronto... the Three Men of Willowdale... the prog-rock band Rush.  Their music is great, but the main draw for me has been the lyrical literature of Neil Peart.

Peart has written thousands of words of song lyrics, and tens of thousands of words in his autobiographical books.  Today, though, I'm focusing on one of his shortest songs -- and one of the few on which he collaborated with someone else on the lyrics (more on that below).  It's the opening number of Side 2 of their 1977 Farewell to Kings album, "Closer to the Heart."

And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones to start
To mould a new reality
Closer to the Heart

There's certainly a manifesto-like feel to it, right?  Crafting a new reality is pretty monumental, and it makes some sense to look to the experts -- the people in the know (not necessarily the people in power) to get it started.

The Blacksmith and the Artist
Reflect it in their art
[They] Forge their creativity
Closer to the Heart

Here Neil harkens back a bit to his quasi-Objectivist roots (i.e., songs like Anthem) to sing the song of the sole auteur, reaching for lonely pinnacles of creativity.  But I think he had broadened his perspective a bit by this time, since the next verse says that

Philosophers and Ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the Heart

I don't think he went to the opposite extreme here, despite the fact that it kind of sounds like "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need."  (And you may still be surprised that I used the letter "C" for this song and not that other famous manifesto!)  But no, it's still individuals he's championing here, and the point of "the Heart" is to work together harmoniously and freely...

You can be the Captain
I will draw the Chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the Heart.

Thus, I guess it's only fair that this song be one of the few lyrical collaborations that Neil Peart has undertaken.  The album credits a friend of the band named Peter Talbot with writing the first verse, and then Neil filled in the rest.  I couldn't find much about Peter Talbot online, but I did find one site that claimed he is the same person as John Michael Talbot, a wizened Christian evangelist and songwriter.

I can't vouch for the truth of it, but the timing is about right... he's close to the same age as Peart, and he put out a solo album titled A New Earth the same year that "Closer to the Heart" was written.  (Oh, and when did famous atheist Neil Peart decide to release the single?  Christmas Day 1977!)  A quick look at John Michael Talbot's life and work also conveys a mystical and visionary side, for which Neil has shown some appreciation.  Although the sentiment behind Revelations 21:1 (where "a new earth" probably comes from) is probably one with which Neil Peart doesn't agree literally, it certainly shares the renewal-vibe of this righteous manifesto of a song.

From: The Word and the Pictures, Vol. 2


  1. Magnificent choice, and beautifully-executed. Perfect Monday morning reading over my cuppa. Many thanks, good sir.

    1. Many more thanks! I should keep digging into the Peter=John Talbot thing, but I'm a little afraid to find out that it's not true.

  2. I love this song. One of Rush's best in my mind.

    1. Ever hear it live? They often extend it out by another couple of minutes with some exuberant instrumentals.