Neil Peart Remembered
Article by Marc Del Cielo
On January 7, 2020, legendary rock drummer Neil Peart passed away at the age of 67 from brain cancer, glioblastoma to be exact. To call him an influential drummer would be a gross understatement to the overall influence he had on music. What Neil Peart did for drumming speaks for itself. His extreme reserves of stamina combined with his almost effortless rolls and fills, became the design for prog rock drumming. Yet not willing to rest on his laurels, Peart sought the tutelage of Freddy Gruber, a renowned jazz instructor, after what he felt was a lackluster performance at a Buddy Rich memorial concert.
But what was always overshadowed by his incredible drumming was his being the primary lyricist for Rush. Since 1975’s Fly By Night, his first album with Rush, Neil penned the bands best known songs including Limelight, The Spirit of Radio and Tom Sawyer. An avid reader, he wrote of fantasy science fiction and mythology, but later shifted towards a social aspect and personal issues. The opinions of his lyrical work have always been split between praise and pan. Since 1980, Neil Peart received numerous awards and accolades for his drumming. 7 consecutive “Best Rock Drummer” awards from Modern Drummer Magazine, but for his lyrics he was named the second worst lyricist in a 2007 Blender Magazine list, behind Sting. Regardless, Peart along with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But his writing abilities went beyond lyrics. Neil wrote 7 books about his travels around the world and his life and career and with Kevin J. Anderson, the science fiction novel Clockwork Angels and its sequel Clockwork Lives. His 2002 Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, chronicles his motorcycle trip that took him from Quebec through Canada to Alaska, the United States and finally Mexico and Central America, as a means to cope with the deaths of his daughter Selena in 1997 and wife Jackie in 1998.
Neil Peart announced his retirement in 2015 due to chronic tendinitis. His bandmates were still hopeful that this was just a brief period of rest for Peart, but in 2018 Rush made it official, and disbanded permanently. Rush’s impact on music is undeniable, and largely on behalf of Neil Peart. Quiet, humble and private, he’s influenced multitudes of musicians and songwriters. In death he will be known as he was in life: the greatest rock drummer ever. Rest in peace Neil, and thank you.