Neil Peart, the renowned drummer and lyricist from the influential Canadian band Rush, has died. He was 67.
His representative, Elliot Mintz, said in a statement Friday that Peart died at his home Tuesday in Santa Monica, California. The band posted a message on Twitter also confirming the news.
“It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer,” the band wrote. “Rest in peace brother.”
Peart placed fourth on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time, just behind Ginger Baker, Keith Moon and John Bonham. Peart’s jaw-dropping percussion skills, though, were matched by his wondrous skill with lyrics as Rush composed song after thought-provoking song that deftly explored the human condition or conjured up mysterious realms beyond the humdrum life of the band’s heyday in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Peart was precise, deliberate and skilled behind his sprawling drum kit, but his innovative lyrics helped set Rush apart from other prog rock bands.
Rush was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, and honored for combining “the signature traits of progressive rock with a proto typical heavy-metal sound.”
“We’ve always said it’s not something that meant a lot to us, but we knew our fans cared so much to be validated like that — that their favorite band like their favorite sports team should be celebrated as champions,” Peart told The Associated Press at the time. “We always knew that was the case and certainly to see it blossom after this is a testament to the truth of that.”
Peart was born on Sept. 12, 1952 in Ontario. Music became an outlet for the self-described introvert who remained a quiet, under-the-radar star his entire career.
“I was very academic until I discovered drums,” he explained in a 2017 interview with Classic Rock. “Then I was a monomaniac about drumming. I was physically awkward. My ankles were weak, so I couldn’t play any sports. I couldn’t skate and I couldn’t play hockey, which in Canada is like football is in the U.K. And that makes you a pariah as a boy.”
Peart was also an author and published six books. At one point in the 1990s, he took jazz drumming instruction, explaining to Classic Rock: “After 40, 45 years of playing, I wanted to push myself and open up this whole new frontier. 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 2015, Peart announced he was retiring from touring, saying he was struggling with ailments and concerned he would not be able to play in top form.
High-profile musicians were among the fans of Peart and Rush who paid tribute on social media.
“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,” Dave Grohl, who inducted Rush into the Rock Hall, said in a statement Friday. “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.”
Jack Black tweeted, “The master will be missed — Neil Peart RIP #RushForever.”
Gene Simmons called Peart “a kind soul,” while Chuck D of Public Enemy recalled being inducted into the Rock Hall on the same night as Rush, saying backstage he and Peart shared “a unique moment without much word. Rest in Beats my man.”
Slash, Bryan Adams, Paul Stanley and Questlove of The Roots also paid tribute to Peart.
“Thank you for inspiring me and for all your help and advice along the way, especially in the early days when you took the time to talk to a young green Danish drummer about recording, gear and the possibilities that lay ahead,” Metallica’s Lars Ulrich wrote on Twitter. “Thank you for what you did for drummers all over the world with your passion, your approach, your principles and your unwavering commitment to the instrument! Rest In Peace.”
Peart is survived by his wife, Carrie, and their daughter, Olivia Louise Peart.