Rush drummer Neil Peart, whose virtuosity at the drum kit made him one of the most accomplished instrumentalists in rock history, has died after a battle with brain cancer, according to the group's official Twitter account. He was 67.
A statement from the band posted on Facebook read:
“It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and bandmate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer (Glioblastoma). We ask that friends, fans, and media alike understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time. Those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil Peart’s name.
“Rest in peace brother.
“Neil Peart September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020”
The Canadian musician and lyricist joined singer-bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in the progressive rock trio, which was beloved by fans for music that blithely defied the strictures of simple three-chord pop music of the '50s and '60s.
In its place, Rush delivered expansive, often dizzyingly complex pop music compositions that, along with those of English prog-rock heroes Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, had more in common with the barrier-bending music of 20th century composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Karl Stockhausen than with the blues and country-rooted sounds of early rock 'n' roll.
Likewise, Peart often cited Swing-era drummers Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich among his primary inspirations, although he also credited the Who's Keith Moon, Cream's Ginger Baker and Led Zeppelin's John Bonham as major influences.
Peart brought sophisticated and rhythmically dazzling accompaniment and provided lyrics to match, often philosophically provocative or illuminating takes on social or political issues.
In "Bastille Day," from the group's 1975 album "Caress of Steel," he talked about that pivotal incident in French history, investing it with meaning that was relevant to the winding down of the Vietnam War:
Lessons taught but never learned
All around us anger burns
Guide the future by the past
Long ago the mold was cast
He also addressed his and his fellow musicians' struggles in the music business in what became one of Rush's signature songs, "The Spirit of Radio," from the 1980 album "Permanent Waves."
One likes to believe in the freedom of music
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity
Beginning in 1974 with the album titled "Rush," the band released a series of gold and platinum albums that extended its popularity into the new millennium. Peart joined Rush for the band’s second album — “Fly By Night” — released in 1975 following the departure of the group’s original drummer, John Rutsey, the year before.
"Today, Rush is cited as an influence by such diverse bands as Metallica, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Primus, Pantera, Tool, Death Cab for Cutie, the Mars Volta, the Smashing Pumpkins, Queensryche and Dream Theatre," critic Rob Bowman wrote for the threesome's 2013 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "Metallica's Kirk Hammett calls Rush 'the high priests of conceptual rock.'"
Dave Grohl, the former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters leader, paid tribute to Peart. In a statement, Grohl wrote: "Today the world lost a true giant in the history of rock and roll. An inspiration to millions with an unmistakable sound who spawned generations of musicians (like myself) to pick up two sticks and chase a dream. A kind, thoughtful, brilliant man who ruled our radios and turntables not only with his drumming, but also his beautiful words.
"I still vividly remember my first listen of '2112' when I was young. It was the first time I really listened to a drummer. And since that day, music has never been the same. His power, precision, and composition was incomparable. He was called 'The Professor' for a reason: we all learned from him.
"Thank you, Neil for making our lives a better place with your music. You will be forever remembered and sorely missed by all of us. And my heartfelt condolences to the Rush family.
"God bless Neil Peart."