Rush drummer hailed as one of greatest of all time
Neil Peart was revered for his drumming skills, but he was also Rush’s key songwriter. He placed fourth on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time, just behind Cream’s Ginger Baker, the Who’s Keith Moon and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. ( 2015 File Photo/The Associated Press)


SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Neil Peart, the renowned drummer and lyricist from the influential Canadian band Rush, has died. He was 67.

His representative, Elliot Mintz, said in a statement Friday that Peart died at his home Tuesday in Santa Monica. The band posted a message on Twitter confirming the news.

“It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer,” the band wrote. “Rest in peace brother.”

The Canadian musician and lyricist joined in 1974 with singer-bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson to form the progressive rock trio, which was beloved by fans for music that blithely defied the strictures of simple three-chord pop music of the ’50s and ’60s.

In its place, Rush delivered expansive, often dizzyingly complex pop music compositions that, along with those of English prog-rock heroes Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, had more in common with the barrier bending music of 20th-century composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Karl Stockhausen than with the blues and country-rooted sounds of early rock ’n’ roll.

Beginning in 1974 with the album titled Rush, the band released a series of gold and platinum albums that extended its popularity into the new millennium.

Key songwriter

Peart was revered for his drumming skills, but he was also the band’s key songwriter, known for his fantastical lyrics. The respected musician placed fourth on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time, just behind Cream’s Ginger Baker, the Who’s Keith Moon and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.

He often cited Swing-era drummers Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich among his primary inspirations, although he also credited Moon, Baker and Bonham as major influences.

Peart brought sophisticated and rhythmically dazzling accompaniment and provided lyrics to match, often philosophically provocative or illuminating takes on social or political issues. In “Bastille Day,” from the group’s 1975 album Caress of Steel, he talked about that pivotal incident in French history, investing it with meaning that was relevant to the winding down of the Vietnam War:

Lessons taught but never learned

All around us anger burns

Guide the future by the past

Long ago the mold was cast

He also addressed his and his fellow musicians’ struggles in the music business in what became one of Rush’s signature songs, “The Spirit of Radio,” from the 1980 album Permanent Waves.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music

But glittering prizes and endless compromises

Shatter the illusion of integrity

Peart and bandmates Lee and Lifeson were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 and honored for combining “the signature traits of progressive rock with a prototypical heavy-metal sound.” Some of their best-known songs include “Tom Sawyer,” “The Big Money,” “Freewill” and “Subdivisions.”

When Rush formed in 1968, its original lineup included Lifeson, bassist Jeff Jones and drummer John Rutsey. After a few weeks, Lee replaced Jones, and in 1974 Peart replaced Rutsey weeks before Rush’s first U.S. tour.

Rush’s first album with Peart — now the band’s principal songwriter — was 1975’s platinum-seller Fly by Night. They released a second album that same year,Caress of Steel, which reached gold status.

In 1976 the band marked a major breakthrough with the album 2112, which sold three million units in the U.S. Rush’s most successful album was 1981’s Moving Pictures, which sold four million copies and featured the rock hit “YYZ,” helping the band earn its first-ever Grammy nomination (they earned seven nominations throughout their career). Chronicles went double platinum, while 11 of the band’s albums were certified platinum and 10 albums reached gold status.

‘An inspiration’

“Today the world lost a true giant in the history of rock and roll. An inspiration to millions with an unmistakable sound who spawned generations of musicians (like myself) to pick up two sticks and chase a dream. A kind, thoughtful, brilliant man who ruled our radios and turntables not only with his drumming, but also his beautiful words,” Dave Grohl, who inducted Rush into the Rock Hall, said in a statement Friday.

“We’ve lost a legend. But his influence and legacy will live on forever in the hearts of music lovers in Canada and around the world. RIP Neil Peart,” tweeted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Thank you for inspiring me and for all your help and advice along the way, especially in the early days when you took the time to talk to a young green Danish drummer about recording, gear and the possibilities that lay ahead,” Metallica’s Lars Ulrich wrote on Twitter. “Thank you for what you did for drummers all over the world with your passion, your approach, your principles and your unwavering commitment to the instrument! Rest In Peace.”

Peart was born on September 12, 1952, in Ontario.

He is survived by his wife, Carrie, and their daughter, Olivia Louise Peart. He was also an author and published six books.

The Associated Press,

Los Angeles Times