Neil Peart, the hugely influential drummer and primary lyricist for legendary prog-rock power trio Rush, is dead. The CBC has confirmed with Rush’s publicist that Peart died in Santa Monica this past Tuesday, 1/7, due to complications from brain cancer. Peart was 67.
It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer (Glioblastoma). We ask that friends, fans, and media alike understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time. Those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil Peart’s name.
Rest in peace brother.
Neil Peart September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020
Peart was born in Hamilton, Ontario and grew up in the Port Dalhousie neighborhood of St. Catherine’s. He moved to London at age 18 to pursue his musical dreams but returned home 18 months later with nothing to show for his time but a newfound fascination with the writings of Ayn Rand. In 1974, despite a rocky audition, he joined Alex Lifeson and Geddy Le’s band Rush. The trio would go on to become one of the most popular and influential bands in the history of rock music. As they evolved from hard rock to prog to a synth-dominated sound, they spawned classic-rock radio staples like “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight” and a large stack of beloved albums including 2112 and Moving Pictures.
Peart was known for his gargantuan drum kits and ever-evolving style, which first incorporated the stylings of rockers like Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Phil Collins and eventually jazz greats like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. For drummers of a certain ilk, he was basically a god, a master technician who never stopped seeking to improve his craft. A full two decades into his run with Rush, he became a pupil of jazz drummer Freddie Gruber, who helped him to completely reinvent his style. By then he had already sealed his reputation as one of music’s most legendary drummers. His lengthy, elaborate drum solos have been copied, parodied, studied, and passionately revered for decades.
Peart also served as Rush’s primary lyricist, providing Lee’s unusually high-register vocals with lots of fantasy and sci-fi imagery as well as objectivist philosophy culled from Rand. He pursued these interests outside of the band as well by penning several nonfiction books. Although his lyrics were as polarizing as his ostentatious drumming, they left an unmistakable imprint on Rush and on rock music as a whole. He retired from Rush in 2015, effectively ending one of rock’s most fiercely beloved bands.