Neil Peart, iconic Rush drummer, dead at 67
Neil Peart, whose octopus-like approach to drumming with beloved Canadian group Rush became the gold standard for rock drumming in the 1970s, has died at 67.
Peart died of brain cancer, according to Rolling Stone. He had retired from live performances in 2015, citing struggles with chronic tendonitis and shoulder difficulties and telling Drumhead Magazine, “It does not pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to … take yourself out of the game.”
Actually the band’s second drummer, Peart joined Rush in 1974, and helped shape the group’s direction from standard Led Zeppelin-aping hard rock to something more brainy and aspirational. Though widely recognized as a virtuoso for the complicated drum patterns that churned underneath bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in the band’s songs, he was also their lyricist, helping to craft the sci-fi-influenced narratives of now-classic albums like “2112,” citing, among others, Ayn Rand as an inspiration.
Peart was a serious, studious drummer: Though his extended, unaccompanied solos were highlights of Rush concerts throughout the band’s 40-year-career, he was hardly a showman, displaying a stoic grimace even while flailing away at his enormous kit for 20-plus minutes. He was widely recognized among peers as one of the greatest drummers to ever sit behind the kit and created a swath of instructional materials dedicated to the craft.
Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, after years of petitions by fans in 2013 and nearly 10 years after they’d been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. But for all of Rush’s success — and while hardly a pop concern, the group was massively successful during its lifetime, with some estimates putting their worldwide sales at over 40 million units — Peart’s personal life was marred by tragedy. His first daughter and then-only child, 19-year-old Selena Taylor, was killed in a car accident in Toronto on Aug. 10, 1997. Months later, Peart’s common-law wife, Jackie, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, which she eventually lost her battle with.
Temporarily retiring from Rush, a grieving Peart went on a 14-month motorcycle journey across North America, through Mexico to Belize and back, an experience he eventually turned into his book “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road.”
Once asked hypothetically by Rolling Stone if he’d consider taking up Peart’s sticks if offered, Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl told the magazine: “I would say, ‘I’m not physically or musically capable, but thanks for the offer.’ Neil Peart, that’s a whole other animal, another species of drummer.”
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