January 11, 2020

Neil Peart — Rush’s Hall of Fame Drummer

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Neil Peart of Rush Neil Peart of Rush

Critics and fans alike were divided in their feelings for the Canadian band called Rush. But one thing that everyone agreed on was that their drummer was nothing short of sensational.

From the early age of 12 when he had his first drum lesson, it was apparent that Neil was gifted. He was also driven to be as good as his idol, Keith Moon. As a teen living in suburban Toronto, he was punished for pounding out rhythms on his desk in school. The teacher gave him what was thought to be a punishment. He was forced to stay in detention for an hour after school. Not a problem. He used the time to pound out the beats that Keith Moon used in the Rock Opera TOMMY.

It wasn't long before Peart was considered to be as wild in his drumming approach as Moon, but even more precise. He certainly wasn’t as wild in his private life. Neil spent most of his free time when he wasn’t drumming reading tons of books. He was very much influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand and loved science fiction. Both were major factors in the lyrics that he created for Rush.

While Neil was not the original drummer for the group, Rush didn’t take off until he joined singer and bass player Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in 1974. His drumming on songs like “Tom Sawyer” and drum solos in concert buoyed the Rush to popularity.

The other passion that Peart had was his view of life being much more than being a Rock hero. He wrote numerous books expressing that music should be pure and not just a product. It had a responsibility to not only create, but to do more to make this planet a better place in which to live. He refused to give up on his values that he held his entire life. It wasn’t enough that he held his views. Whenever he could, he would write books and talk to others about his beliefs with passion.

It was the same passion that he used in drumming. Peart was exciting and powerful. Yet never at the cost of being anything less than creative and precise. It led to Neil being named the best drummer 38 times in the annual Modern Drummer’s annual poll. His peers all agreed.

In 1981 they released their MOVING PICTURES album that was the most complex to date. That suited Neil just fine. He always wanted to expand and learn more. It led him to even take drum lessons after he was already considered to be a master drummer. That wasn’t enough. He felt a responsibility to get even better. The Jazz drummers to him were a new horizon that he could reach so he started taking lessons from Freddie Gruber, a Jazz player. It helped him to reach an even higher rung on the drummer’s scale.

The life of Neil Peart was not without its share of tragedy. In 1997 his 19-year-old daughter, Selena, was killed in a car accident. Five months later the mother of his daughter Jackie died of Cancer. It was very hard for him to take and he seriously considered retiring. The thought was that he would just travel on his motorcycle across the country. Riding his bike always gave him peace and comfort. In fact, he used to travel from concert to concert on his bike rather than be on a tour bus.

Instead, he stuck it out with Rush. However, everything reaches a climax. The climax for Rush was their final album, CLOCKWORK ANGELS in 2012 and tour in 2015. By that time Neil was dog tired and felt that he could no longer keep up with the demands of his style of drumming. He had also remarried and wanted to spend more time with his wife and family.

That time was unfortunately cut short. It wasn’t long after his retirement that Peart learned that he had developed brain Cancer. He lost his battle to the disease on January 7. 2020.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Otto Greenleaf Saturday, January 11, 2020 posted by Otto Greenleaf

    When I was a boy I joined the RCA Music Club. I got 3 records: Led Zeppelin II, Deep Purple-Machine Head & Rush-Caress Of Steel. That's where my rock voyage with Rush began. Been a fan ever since and it's the best penny I ever spent. RIP Neil.

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