Jan 11, 2020

Remembering Neil Peart- Rush Drummer Passes Away at 68

Cornelius Ellwood Peart, was born on a farm in Hamilton, Ontario. As a young boy, he would tune his transistor radio to the pop/rock music of radio stations in  Toronto & Buffalo, New York. Peart would start out musically, with piano lessons, but had much more of a knack & love for drumming. 

His parents bought him drum sticks, telling him if he was still into drumming a year later, they would buy him his first drum set. On his 14th birthday, he got that set & the rest is history. Neil Peart would become one of the greatest rock drummers in the history of music.

He was influenced early on by, the harder rock drummers of that day, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Carmine Appice & John Bonham. 

Peart, would soon develop his own style, it has been written, his outstanding stamina & technical proficiency, made him stand out in his field. His massive drum kits & epic solos were an event in itself at Rush concerts. He was said to be one of the first rock drummers to do the in concert drum solo.

 Peart has been voted the greatest drummer of all time according to Drum World Magazine. His massive drum sets would only get larger through his prominent years. He would incorporate more percussion instruments over time & feature some unusual instruments, such as tubular bells & glockenspiel.

The Who was the first band that inspired him to write songs, as he eventually became the main lyricist for Rush. His themes were about science fiction, fantasy, philosophy & travel to exotic places for the most places.

Early on in his music career he got no where in & out of bands that went no where. He then went to work for his father in St. Catherine's Ontario, selling tractor parts.

In 1974 it was suggested by a mutual friend, to audition for a rock band called Rush, based out of Toronto. The band featured Geddy Lee a singer / bass player that would also play keyboards. The trio also featured guitarist, Alex Lifeson.

Neil Peart, officially joined Rush, July 29th 1974 . Two weeks later he & Rush were playing in front of 11,000 people, in Pittsburgh PA. opening for Uriah Heep & Manfred Mann.

Rush's first album with Neil Peart, was 1975's Fly By Night. It was a moderate success, cracking the Billboard 200 at 113. It featured the now classic Rush songs, Anthem & Fly By Night, with lyrics written by Peart. Its follow up album, Caress of Steel did not fare as well as the band intended.

In 1976 they delivered their first true classic album, 2112. It featured the 20 minute epic title track of the same name. The song was broken down into seven parts- I Overture, II The Temple of Syrinx, III Discovery, IV Presentation, V Oracle, VI Soliloquy & VII Grand Finale. The album also featured Rush classics, Passage to Bangkok & The Twilight Zone. 

It is considered the bands masterpiece by many & is remembered as one of the all time classic rock albums.

The album broke through in America for Rush, reaching #61 but became more classic as time went on. It is the bands second best selling of all time & got them to rock star success.

The band next moved on to what is called their progressive era, with the albums Farewell to Kings (1977) & Hemispheres (1978). 





In 1979  their Permanent Waves album, featured a hard rock, new wave sound with a bit of Reggae influence. The radio classics, Freewill & (my all time Rush favorite) Spirit of Radio highlighted the album.

Permanent Waves, put Rush in the elite rock class, as for the next few years they would be a staple of FM radio. The album peaked at #4 in the US & the band went on a big tour supporting the album from 1979 into 1980.

In 1981, Rush reached its height of popularity, their album Moving Pictures rocked the world. As a high school kid of the time, let me tell you this album was the biggest thing around & Rush ruled.  

Moving Pictures,  has gone quadruple platinum since then & at the time peaked at #3 on the billboard charts. All time Rush classics Tom Sawyer, Limelight, Red Barchetta & the instrumental YYZ, all highlight the album.



At Rush's height of popularity remained, their sound became more synthesizer oriented for the rest of the 80's. The next release, Signals (1982) featured the radio hit Subdivisions & their next album Grace Under Pressure (1984) all remained in that synth oriented sound. This was the first time I saw Rush live.

At this point, Neil Peart was playing in more of a jazz style, with electronic drums added to his repertoire. 

By the 1990's Rush went back to more of a guitar based sound, with the albums, Roll the Bones & Counterparts. The band continued to tour as well. At this time he was asked by legendary drummer, Buddy Rich's daughter to participate in a memorial concert for her father. 

Feeling his performance was not up to par, he produced & played on two more Rich Tribute albums. At this point he also began tutoring in jazz drumming with Freddie Gruber & Pete Erskine with a recommendation from Journey's Steve Smith.

In the late 1990's, personal tragedy struck Peart. Sadly, his 19 year-old daughter Selena was killed in an automobile accident . Then less than a year later, his first wife, Jacqueline died of cancer. Peart was devastated. He took time off to mourn  & reflect on life.

 At that point he traveled across North America & eventually wrote a book of his travels titled, Ghost Rider- Travels on the Healing Road. 

He soon reunited with his bandmates & Rush released Vapor Trails in 2002. It was the first Rush album in 27 years not to feature a keyboard. It's opening track, One Little Victory is one of my favorite Rush songs as is this brilliant album. 

It reached #6 in the USA billboard chart & Rush followed with their first tour in six years, resulting with the Rock In Rio DVD. Peart did not participate in the meet & greets, as all agreed it was not fair for him to deal with the sad questions pertaining to his family's tragedies.

In 2000, thru Peart's travels, he met photographer Carrie Nuttall. The two would get married & have a daughter, Olivia together.

In 2004 Rush, embarked on their 30th Anniversary Tour, a celebration of the bands career, a show which centerfieldmaz attended at Madison Square Garden.

The band released two more albums, with Clockwork Angles (2012) being their last studio effort. 

Rush with 24 gold records & 14 platinum albums are fifth in the USA with most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band, behind The Beatles, Stones, Kiss & Aerosmith. 

In 2015 Peart announced what was his retirement, although band mate Geddy Lee said Peart's words were taken out of texts.

Quotes- Neil Peart:  "Lately Olivia has been introducing me to new friends at school as 'My Dad, he' s a retired drummer.' True to say & funny to hear, just like athletes there comes a time to take yourself out of the game."







In 2018, Alex Lifesen said Rush is basically done, as Peart's health was getting worse. At the time shoulder issues & tendinitis were his major issues. On January 10th 2020, one of the worlds best drummers past away, Neil Peart died of brain cancer at age 68.

                      "one likes to believe in the freedom of music"

At his passing Kiss bassist Gene Simmons was among many to send out condolences to his family. Peart's country of Canada also paid their respects.

RUSH released the following statement:



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