Rock Is Mourning: Neil Peart, Rush’s Drummer, Dies Of Brain Cancer At 67

R.I.P Neil

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Neil Peart
Neil Peart

Neil Peart, whose drum theatrics fueled the Canadian rock trio Rush to international fame, died Friday of brain cancer in Santa Monica. He was 67. A family spokesperson confirmed the news to Deadline’s sister publication Rolling Stone.

Peart was considered among the greatest drummers in rock ‘n’ roll history. Known for his wild fills, massive drum kit an steely onstage demesanor. “The Professor” joined bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in Rush after its first album, and the band would go one to sell millins of records worldwide. He retired from the group after it played its final show on August 1, 2015, at the Forum in Inglewood, CA.

Peart wrote the lyrics to most of Rush’s songs and was considered among the greatest drummers in rock ‘n’ roll history. Known for his wild fills, massive drum kit and steely onstage demeanor. “The Professor” joined bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in Rush after its first album, and the band would go one to sell millins of records worldwide. He retired from the group after it played its final show on August 1, 2015, at the Forum in Inglewood, CA.

Rush is a staple of classic rock radio with such enduring songs as “Tom Sawyer,” “The Spirit of Radio,” “Limelight,” “Freewill,” “Subdivisions,” “Closer to the Heart” and “New World Man” — all fueled by Peart’s drumming and lyrics. The group was most popular during the 1980s, when it released eight consecutive albums that reached the top 10 on the Billboard 200, from 1980’s Permanent Waves through 1989’s Presto and including the 1981 double live set Exit … Stage Left. Marred only by the No. 11 peak of 1991’s Roll the Bones, its run of top 10 albums continued through 2012’s Clockwork Angels, which was the band’s U.S. chart-topper since 1982’s Signals.

The group’s 1970s albums all would go on to attain gold or platinum status stateside as its popularity grew. In all, Rush released 19 studios records and 10-plus live albums.

Neil Peart
QUEBEC, CANADA – 1st SEPTEMBER: Drummer Neil Peart from Canadian progressive rock band Rush recording their album ‘Permanent Waves’ at Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, Canada in October 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

It was on the concert stage that Peart flourished. Seated amid and surrounded by a sprawling kit that held dozens of drums, cymbals, chimes, bells and more, he would stop every show with a solo that incorporating them all. In a post-’70s era when long solos often were frowned upon, Rush was among the few live acts whose audience ate them up — basically demanded it. And Peart never, ever let them down.

He was known for stick tosses that seemed to scrape the rafters of the arenas Rush played routinely. When the band would play “Freewill,” for example, Peart would take advantage of the drum rest during its intro to hurl a stick skyward, always catching it just in time to pick up the beat.

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