Remembering Legendary Drummer Neil Peart

by The Cowl Editor on January 30, 2020


How the Rush Drummer Defined Rock and Roll Percussion

by Daniel O’Neill ’21 A&E Staff

On Tuesday, January 7, Rush drummer and main lyricist Neil Peart passed away in Malibu, California. He was 67 years old and was battling a form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. 

Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10522875a)
Neil Peart, Rush.        

In 2015, Rush toured for the final time of their illustrious career. Peart decided to stop touring for good, as many years of methodically intense drumming finally took a toll on his body. He was privately battling cancer at that point in his life as well. It was time for him to throw in the towel. 

Peart is considered to this day to be one of the greatest drummers in rock and roll music history. He was extremely detailed in how he revolutionized the art of drumming. Peart constantly pushed boundaries with his massive drum sets on stage. In 1974, he joined the band Rush alongside lead singer and bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. The band had already released a self-titled album at the time, so his arrival to the group was the missing piece that the band needed. Rush saw incredible success, especially in their home country of Canada. 

Many fans feel that a part of Canada is lost with the death of Peart. He defined rock drumming since he came to fame. He was known as a virtuoso in the rock world, not only because of his drumming skills, but also for his lyricism and its heavy literary influence. Early on, Peart used different science fiction novels as inspiration, and sometimes even political commentaries. Towards the end, however, the lyrics he wrote would be more focused on his emotions and personal stories. His drums quickly set the band apart from everyone else, due to his ability to create fills and solos that were their own masterpieces. 

The most famous example of this is “Tom Sawyer” off of their most successful album Moving Pictures because of Neil Peart’s dramatic drum solo following Lifeson’s guitar solo. It is coined as one of the greatest drum solos in rock and roll history. Peart left a mark on the industry by adding a bit of complication and chaos to drumming. He trained with multiple instructors to help hone his techniques in the later years of his career, most notably with Freddie Gruber, a legendary jazz drummer. 

Not many rock drummers look for a teacher while they are in their career. Peart stepped out of the box to solidify his position as one of the most sophisticated and crafty musicians of all time. He incorporated his impressive and incredible skill as a drummer with his ability to tell real stories that caused real feelings in other people. He did not try to stoop to the level of other mainstream rock bands. He wrote about things that connected Rush and regular people. Peart lived his life to the fullest, and his legacy will never die because of this. Rush will live on in the hearts of rock and roll fans forever. 

11 thoughts on “Remembering Legendary Drummer Neil Peart

  1. Worst decision in his career was to allow an aged washed up jazz drummer change his drum kit set up. It rose his snare to a point that placed incredible stresses on all his ligaments and tendons. All of his issues, including his back pain, started there.

    Placing the snare drum at the naval (bellybutton) because its the center of gravity??? What nonsense….last I checked, gravity is a vertical phenomenon not a horizontal one. The snare became a point of contact much earlier in his swing. The guy went 30 years without a single injury and as soon as he met Freddie, his body went to crap.

  2. I grew up with rush and will forever be rush fan.. I feel like a part of me has died.
    Hands down ,when it came to live in concert they were at the top. I admired neil peart
    His lyrics,his outstanding pursuit to excellence. Yet you can tell allways challenging himself. He will be very missed. RIP neil peart we love you

  3. I was born the same year as Neil Peart . And I could always connect with Rush ‘s music . I often felt that they were singing to me. I will miss the insight in the lyrics and of course I will miss the music.

  4. This man has truly been the epicenter of my adolescence and the inspiration of my adulthood. This is the first time I’ve ever been this emotionally compromised over someone not connected to me by relation. I am however eternally grateful that I existed at the same time as this all around super human being. Thanks for reaching me Mr. Peart! David S. Long

  5. I am listening to Neil’s wonderful memoirs starting with “Ghostrider” to “Traveling Music” now “Far and Wide”. He was a man with a deep love and passion of nature, music, friends, family, the road and a insatiable curiosity about the world around him and his own journey as a fully feeling – thinking human.

  6. Mr. O’Neill needs to get his facts straight. He claims that Neil was “privately battling cancer” at the point of his retirement. Not true. Peart retired in 2015. All accounts say he began battling cancer 3 1/2 years ago, which wasn’t until 2016. That timeline indicates the cancer could not have factored into his retirement decision.

  7. With all due respect you lead with an unsubstantiated assertion that Neil’s retirement from RUSH was due to cancer. Given what we know from Geddy, Alex and Neil’s own writing, this is indeed not the case. The official statement indicates this diagnosis occurred in mid 2016. It’s nice that you took the time to honor Neil, but you really should try to be as accurate as possible bwhen doing so.

  8. He will always remain in our hearts and in our homes and cars as we RUSH fans never go away and always play the music and it will always live on as he will. He is a Legend and will always be remembered as such .. RIP
    professor ..

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