By Dave Pehling
SANTA MONICA (CBS SF) — Neil Peart, the iconic drummer and lyricist of Canadian power trio Rush, has died at 67 of brain cancer, according band representatives.
Peart reportedly died Tuesday in Santa Monica, a statement issued by a family spokesperson on Friday announced. The story was first reported by the CBC.
The band confirmed the news, posting a message via its Twitter account Friday afternoon.
Neil Peart September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020 pic.twitter.com/NivX2RhiB8
— Rush (@rushtheband) January 10, 2020
One of the true giants of rock drumming to emerge during the 1970s who drew inspiration from predecessors like Keith Moon of The Who, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham as well as jazz drumming greats Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, Peart joined the Toronto-based band featuring guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee in 1974.
While the band had already established itself as one of Canada’s rising band with it’s self-titled debut, Peart’s maniacal yet precise drumming would propel Rush to new heights. His first recording with the trio, Fly By Night in 1975, found Peart taking the reigns of the lyric writing that drew on his voracious appetite for science fiction and fantasy (“Anthem” was inspired by Ayn Rand’s novel of the same name, while “Rivendell” nodded to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythos).
The combination of Peart’s adroit drumming skills and apocalyptic lyrics would push the band further in a progressive rock direction with the trio’s breakthrough 1976 album, 2112. Opening with a side-long epic that told the story of a future Earth existing under the oppressive rule of the Solar Federation, the ambitious effort became a huge commercial success and helped establish Rush as an arena headliner.
The band built on its growing audience through the decade with more hard-edged prog-rock classics like A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres, but by 1980’s Permanent Waves Rush began embracing more varied musical styles (notably reggae in the hit “Spirit of Radio) and concise pop song structures. Their follow-up Moving Pictures would stand as another landmark with FM staples “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight” and the powerhouse instrumental track “YYZ” that shifted Peart’s lyrical focus to alienation, individuality and the price of fame.
Rush would be one of the few hard rock bands of the ’70s to have continued success in the ’80s, scoring MTV hits and performing to sold-out crowds the world over. In the following decade, Rush would further cultivate a unique bond with its fan base while bringing like-minded younger bands including Primus and the Melvins out on the road as opening acts. Peart would explore other creative outlets, taking jazz drumming lessons and recording two albums that focused on the big-band sounds of drummer Buddy Rich and writing the first of two books, The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa, a travelogue of a 1988 bicycle trip through Camaroon.
Rush would go on an extended hiatus late in the decade as Peart dealt with the twin tragedies of his 19-year-old daughter dying in a car accident in 1997 and the death of his wife from cancer the following year. Having told his Rush bandmates he was essentially retired at his daughter’s memorial, Peart would embark on motorcycle tour of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico that helped him recover from the loss and find a new purpose. His second book, Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road detailed his travels and eventual return to Rush to record their 2002 album Vapor Trails.
Peart would write several more books, often about his travels with the band, as Rush enjoyed a renaissance in popularity with a string of studio albums, sold-out live tours and long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. The band’s career culminated in the trio’s R40 Tour in 2015 that marked Peart’s 40 years in the band as well as its final live performances together. Peart confirmed his retirement from performing later that year. The drummer is survived by his wife, Carrie Nuttal and their daughter Olivia Louise Peart.