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Neil Peart, Rush Drummer Who Set a New Standard for Rock Virtuosity, Dead at 67

Rolling Stone logo Rolling Stone 1/10/2020 Brian Hiatt
a man standing next to a car: Rush Recording Permanent Waves © Provided by Rolling Stone Rush Recording Permanent Waves

Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist for Rush, died Tuesday, January 7th, in Santa Monica, California at age 67. The cause was brain cancer, which he had been quietly battling for three years, according to Elliott Mintz, a spokesperson for the Peart family. A representative for the band confirmed the news to Rolling Stone.

Peart was widely considered one of the best drummers in rock history, with a flamboyant yet utterly precise style. He joined singer-bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in Rush in 1974, and his virtuosic playing and literate lyrics  – which drew on Ayn Rand and science fiction, among other influences – helped make the trio one of the key bands of the classic-rock era. A rigorous autodidact and a gifted writer, he was also the author of numerous books. He was fiercely principled, and never stopped believing in the possibilities of rock and despising what he saw as over-commercialization of the music industry.  “It’s about being your own hero,” he told Rolling Stone in 2015. “I set out to never betray the values that 16-year-old had, to never sell out, to never bow to the man. A compromise is what I can never accept.”

“Neil is the most air-drummed-to drummer of all time,” former Police drummer Stewart Copeland said in 2015. “Neil pushes that band, which has a lot of musicality, a lot of ideas crammed into every eight bars — but he keeps the throb, which is the important thing. And he can do that while doing all kinds of cool s---”

Rush finished their final tour in 2015; Peart was done with the road and eager to spend more time with his wife, Carrie Nuttal, and daughter Olivia.

Remembering the stars we lost in 2019

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