Neil Peart, Rush Drummer, Dies at 67

Neil Peart, the legendary drummer of Rush, has died, according to an announcement from the band. He was 67. The cause of death, according to a spokesperson, was brain cancer. Peart passed on Tuesday, January 7th, in Santa Monica.

One of the most innovative drummers in rock history, Peart was famous for his state-of-the-art drum kits — more than 40 different drums were not out of the norm — precise playing style and onstage showmanship. He joined Rush in 1974, after the band’s cofounders, bassist/singer Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson, had released one self-titled album.

Neil Peart, Rush Drummer, Dies at 67
Neil Peart, Rush Drummer, Dies at 67

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The addition of Peart, whose technical chops and use of melodic percussion instruments — vibes, chimes and later synthesized percussion — vastly expanded the band’s musical palette, and he soon assumed the role of the band’s lyricist as well; he was famously influenced by science-fiction and particularly Ayn Rand, author of “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” The band embarked on a series of increasingly elaborate albums whose lyrics and storylines were as sophisticated as their growing musical ambitions. “Necromancer,” a conceptual song on their 1975 album “Caress of Steel,” paved the way for the full-blown 1976 concept album “2112,” a dystopian tale about a future society without music.

While the band continued to hew a combination of heavy metal and progressive rock throughout the ’70s, by the end of the decade they began the first of several musical transformations, showing the influence of The Police and more musicianly new wave acts like Ultravox. Surprisingly, this resulted in the band’s most commercially successful era, with 1979’s “Permanent Waves” and 1980’s “Moving Pictures” spawning hit singles like “Spirit of the Radio” and “Tom Sawyer.”

Over the next 15 years, Rush admirably declined to become a heritage act and continually challenged themselves and overhauled their sound, dropping the hard rock and high vocals that marked their early material and pursuing more keyboard-based arrangements and different musical styles. While their commercial popularity declined after the early 1980s they remained a hard-working and extremely popular live act with a deeply dedicated fan base that regularly filled arenas.

In 1997, tragedy struck when Peart’s daughter Selena was killed in a car accident, and his wife Jacqueline died from cancer just months later. The band took an extensive hiatus while Peart healed by traveling cross-country on his motorcycle by himself. He remarried in 2000 and the band resumed recording and touring the following year.

The group played a blockbuster 40th anniversary tour that ended in 2015, with the band making statements along the way that the tour might be its last, due to Lifeson’s arthritis and Peart’s tendonitis; while they did not say definitively that they had splt up, in 2018 Lee said the group had no plans to work together in the immediate future. The group played its final show in 2015 at the Forum in Los Angeles.

Peart first picked up drummer at the age of 13. “I got a pair of sticks, a practice pad, and lessons,” he said in 2012, adding that his parents told him, “’Once you show that you’re going to stick with it for a year, then we’ll get drums.’ Fair enough.”

According to the RIAA, Rush’s album sales statistics put them third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band. Rush also ranks 79th in US album sales with 25 million units. Worldwide, the band has moved over 40 million units.

Peart is survived by his wife, Carrie Nuttal, and daughter Olivia.

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