On January 7, 2020 we lost one of the most prolific drummers of all time. Neil Peart, best known as the drummer and primary lyricist of RUSH, died from brain cancer (glioblastoma).
Peart was born in Hamilton, Ontario on September 12, 1952. He first began in music with piano lessons, something he would later say had no impact on him. He was always drumming on various things around the house as a child, so at 13 his parents bought him drum sticks, promising that if he practiced for a year they would buy him a drum set. He began taking lessons on his new kit at 14. By his late teens Peart had played in several local bands
At 18, he moved to England hoping to further his career. It took about a year and a half before he became frustrated and returned to Canada. He joined a band named Hush, and they toured the Southern Ontario bar circuit. Soon, though, he heard that a rising band, RUSH, needed a new drummer to replace the band’s original, John Rutsey. Peart officially joined the band on July 29, 1974. Two weeks later Peart and RUSH were on tour, beginning in Pittsburgh, PA.
The band had one record out when Peart arrived, and in 1975 Fly by Night was their first offering with Peart. It was considered a successful record, though the next (Caress of Steel) was not. In 1976 RUSH released their breakthrough album, 2112, and the rest is history. The band has 19 studio albums, with ten exceeding one million copies sold in the US. They are ranked third for the “most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band” – Billboard.
Peart’s drumming style is fascinating! Its foundation is the rock bands of the 60’s and 70’s (John Bonham, Led Zeplin ; Ginger Baker, Cream). Into this solid base he added Jazz and Big Band techniques and styles. He played while holding his sticks butt-end out, giving him bigger sound and greater rimshot. Sometimes he played with a traditional grip and others with matched grip. His drum kits were 360 degrees around him, rotating to reverse the layout of the drums, with as many as 40+ drums.
Neil Peart – “The Goat” as he was affectionately known; “your favorite drummer’s favorite drummer,” other musicians would say; Variety wrote, “Widely considered one of the most innovative drummers in Rock history.” USA Today considered him “one of the best Rock drummers of all time, alongside John Bonham, Ringo Star (The Beatles), Keith Moon (The Who), Ginger Baker, and Stewart Copeland (The Police).” Best known for his “technical proficiency,” he was the youngest inductee into the Modern Drummers Hall of Fame in 1983. Over 40 years with RUSH… You are missed, sir.