Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist of progressive rock band Rush, has died, CBC News and Rolling Stone report. According to the reports, Peart died on January 7 in Santa Monica, California after a years-long battle with brain cancer. He was 67 years old.
Renowned for his technical expertise and unique performance style, Neil Peart was considered by many to be one of the best rock drummers of all time. He retired from professional drumming, and Rush, in 2015.
Born in 1952, Neil Peart picked up the drums at an early age and played in several bands in his native Ontario before joining Rush in 1974, shortly ahead of the group’s first-ever U.S. tour. Peart replaced founding drummer John Rutsey and would remain in Rush for the rest of his professional career, recording on every one of their studio albums save for their debut self-titled LP. Peart picked up lyricist duties beginning with the band’s second album Fly by Night in 1975.
Peart quickly gained notoriety for his powerful rock drumming. As Rush continued to record albums and expand their sound over the decades, his drumming style continued to shift as well, incorporating more percussion elements and early sample-triggering into his performances. He reached a breakthrough in the mid-1990s when he sought instruction from jazz drummer Freddie Gruber. “After 40, 45 years of playing, I wanted to push myself and open up this whole new frontier,” Peart said in 2017. “I’ve been able to do that as a lyricist and as a prose writer, and now as a drummer. You have to challenge your own limitations and your own expectations of yourself.”
In 1997, Peart experienced tragedy with the death of his daughter Selena Taylor in a car accident. Less than a year later, his wife Jacqueline died following a battle with cancer. These deaths resulted in Peart taking time off from the band, during which he traveled North America via motorcycle to grieve, before returning in 2002 for Rush’s 17th studio album Vapor Trails. He later documented that trip in his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road.
In December 2015, Peart announced his retirement from drum performance, and Rush, in an interview with Drumhead Magazine. During the interview, he told a story about his daughter Olivia. “Lately Olivia has been introducing me to new friends at school as, ‘My dad—He’s a retired drummer,’” he quipped. “True to say—funny to hear. And it does not pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to… take yourself out of the game.”