Hamilton-born Rush drummer Neil Peart remembered


Published December 5, 2023 at 11:32 am

Photo credit Guitar Center

The legacy of legendary Hamilton-born rock drummer Neil Peart is still being honoured nearly four years after his death.

Peart, who died of glioblastoma (a highly aggressive form of brain cancer) on January 7, 2020 at the age of 67, was best known as the drummer and primary lyricist for the iconic Canadian band Rush, but was also an accomplished author with seven non-fiction books to his name.

Peart spent his early years on a farm near Hagersville before the family moved to Port Dalhousie (now part of St. Catharines). He received his first drum kit at 14 and at 18 moved to England to try to make a go of it in the music world.

He returned home 18 months later and was selling tractor parts with his father before joining Rush in 1974 after the band’s release of their debut album. The rest, as they say, is history.

Alex Lifeson (left), Neil Peart and Geddy Lee of Rush in the early days. Photo Fin Costello

Known to fans as the ‘Professor,’ Peart earned numerous awards during his career, including the Order of Canada (1996) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (with Rush) in 2013. He was also named to the Modern Drummer magazine Hall of Fame at 30, the youngest to achieve that honour.

Peart’s first book, The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa, was written in 1996 about a month-long bicycling tour through Cameroon.

After his daughter was killed in a car accident in 1996 and his wife died of cancer a year later, Peart took a three-year hiatus from Rush and travelled across North America by motorcycle in an attempt to put his life back together, with the resulting travel memoir published as Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road.

He remarried in 2000 and rejoined the band in 2001 in time for the release of Vapour Trails in 2002.

Peart was noted for his massive drum kit set-ups and his distinctive drum solos during concerts, characterized by exotic percussion instruments and “long, intricate passages in odd time signatures.” Variety Magazine described him as “one of the most innovative drummers in rock history” best known for his “precise playing style and on stage showmanship.”

Rush released 19 studio albums (18 with Peart), with 14 of those going platinum, and have sold more than 40 million records world-wide. Their 1981 release, Moving Pictures, sold more than five million copies.

Peart, who retired from touring in 2015 and from the band after his diagnosis in 2018, is widely considered one of the greatest drummers in rock and roll history.

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