Rush drummer Neil Peart dies at 67

Neil Peart, the former drummer for the Canadian rock band Rush, died on January 7 of brain cancer. He was 67 years old.

Peart joined Rush in 1974, and their lineup remained the same until their retirement 41 years later. During that time, they sold 25 million albums in the U.S., according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

These include 1981’s “Moving Pictures,” which sold 4 million copies; 1976’s “2112,” which sold 3 million copies; and the 1990 compilation “Chronicles,” which sold 2 million copies. The group also has 11 other platinum albums to its credit, as well as 10 gold albums.

The band built its devoted following through relentless touring and was a consistently popular live attraction. Their “Snakes and Arrows” tour earned $18 million on its 2007 leg, and their farewell “R40” tour in 2015 was their most successful ever, with over 30 North American dates that earned approximately $1 million each.

“Their final tour together in 2015 grossed $1,134,603 per show,” said Eric Knight of Persistent Management. That year, the group was ranked at number 12 in Pollstar’s list of Top 20 Global Concert Tours of 2015.

While some bands with that level of success might have chosen to soldier on with a replacement drummer, that would be difficult in this case, if not impossible. Peart is considered one of the greatest rock drummers of all time. He was inducted into Modern Drummer magazine’s Hall of Fame in 1983, and in 2014, he was voted the Greatest Drummer of All Time by the readers of Consequence of Sound. 

Additionally, Peart was the group’s lyricist, and he covered such topics as science fiction, politics, and the literary works of Ayn Rand. But perhaps the greatest testament to his talents is that every Rush concert featured an extended drum solo. While that would typically be the time when fans of other bands would duck out to the bathroom, his solo spots were so popular that they were included on all of the group’s live albums.

According to Eric Knight of Persistent Management, the group has also influenced many famous bands, right up to the present day.

“As far as influential, successful bands that they’ve influenced, I would say for sure the Foo Fighters, and of course Tool, which just had the number one album in Billboard last year with ‘Fear Inoculum,’ just to name a few,” he said. “There are countless others.”

Mara Kuge, president and founder of Superior Music Publishing, agreed that the surviving members of the group are highly unlikely to go on without him. But even though this may be the end of the road for Rush, fans shouldn’t expect them to disappear either.

“Their fans are in the right age bracket that they’re likely to want a box set or other commemoration,” she said. “They could also be a good topic for a biopic. Peart’s story has been very interesting, with a lot of sadness. There was a popular documentary made about them, and they were already featured in a Judd Apatow film, so this seems like a natural next step.”

Indeed, Peart suffered more than his fair share of tragedy. In 1997, his 19-year-old daughter Selena was killed in a car accident, followed less than a year later by his wife Jacqueline, who died of cancer. Happily, he married photographer Carrie Nuttall in 2000, and the two had a daughter together, Olivia, in 2009.

He retired in 2015 after the conclusion of the band’s R40 tour. He had been suffering from chronic tendonitis and shoulder problems that made it physically painful to perform, especially in the case of the demanding musicianship and marathon sets that Rush always gave its fans. But shortly after the tour’s conclusion, he said that he wasn’t sad about that part of his life ending, and that he was looking forward to being with his family.

“It does not pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to… take yourself out of the game,” he said.

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