Rush drummer Neil Peart dies, aged 67

(Image credit: Joby Sessions / Future)

Rush drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart has died aged 67.

The news was announced earlier today by his Rush bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, saying “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).” 


It continues, "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."

Peart joined Rush in 1974, and - thanks to his command of odd-time signatures, detailed drum parts, intricate fills and masterfully crafted solos -  went on to become one of the most influential drummers in rock history with the likes of Taylor Hawkins, Chad Smith, Dave Grohl and many, many others citing him as an influence.

Neil’s pursuit of excellence was never-ending. In 2014  he told us, “It’s been my life’s tangent”

"There is nothing I would rather have than the respect of other musicians for what I do, but respect is something you have to earn continually. 

There is nothing I would rather have than the respect of other musicians for what I do

Neil Peart

"As a musician it's my responsibility to get better and if people are admiring the work I do then that's even more inspiration to improve and to take it up a notch. 

"The hunger for improvement and exploration and all that really does derive from the acclaim. I know people give me that respect so I feel I have to earn it."

It was in this spirit that after 30 years behind the kit he opted to study with the great Freddie Gruber in the mid-'90s, “I was starting to feel stiff and that's when I studied with Freddie Gruber because I saw Steve Smith play." 

"In the mid-80s we worked together on a Jeff Berlin record so I'd seen Steve play and knew that he was great, but when we were doing the Buddy Rich tribute he came in to set up and just started playing. I said, 'What happened to you?' It was so beautiful, so musical, so crisp and elegant. And he said, 'Freddie.’”

"I met Freddie around that same time of the recording of the Buddy Rich tribute. We became lifelong friends and started working together to loosen up my playing. That's what his coaching was all about - it was all physical, not musical. He's not the kind of teacher who teaches you how to play the drums, he teaches you how to dance on the drums.”

Peart performed his last live shows with Rush in 2015, before announcing his retirement from music. In 2018, it was announced that Peart would be not only retiring from Rush, but drumming altogether, with Geddy Lee stating, "Neil hasn't just retired from Rush; he's retired from drumming. He's not drumming anymore, and he's living his life. Which is fine. Alex and I are cool with it. 

"We're all still total pals. In fact, Alex and I were there just a few weeks ago visiting him, and we stay in touch.”

Peart’s drumming legacy has had an immeasurable influence on every corner of the rock world, from classic rock to prog, fusion, and metal with countless musicians paying their respects via social media.

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...dude...fu%+in Neil The GAWD. All respect due to the legend. RIP. Questlove Froman,

A photo posted by @questlove on Jan 10, 2020 at 1:17pm PST

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Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.