A Musician’s Legacy: Rush’s Neil Peart

No musician lives forever, but some, like Peart, will live on in their music.

QUEBEC, CANADA - 1st SEPTEMBER: Drummer Neil Peart from Canadian progressive rock band Rush recording their album 'Permanent Waves' at Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, Canada in October 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

It has been nine months since Neil Peart, of Rush, tragically passed away at 67. As the drummer’s birthday draws near, I would like to take the opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Peart, an integral part of a band who have touched the hearts of many. 

Rush is a Canadian rock band formed in 1968, originally consisting of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and John Rutsey, before Peart replaced Rutsey as Rush’s drummer in 1974. Despite being an introverted child, Peart floored Lee and Lifeson with his virtuosic drumming audition; both place Peart’s skills among that of John Bonham and Keith Moon, and Peart is now rightly remembered as one of the most gifted drummers of all time. 

Technically, Peart blew away both fans and fellow musicians with drumming so electrifying that he toyed between time signatures so seamlessly that it is almost unnoticeable to the ear alone. Rush’s storytelling albums such as Caress Of Steel, Hemispheres and 2112 truly showcase some of Peart’s most extraordinary, complex drumming and musicianship. 

Peart is known to have mentioned that Rush was ‘born’ with Moving Pictures, and it is easy to see why. One of Rush’s most famous and iconic tracks, ‘Tom Sawyer’, also happens to be one of the most technically challenging songs that Peart ever wrote for his drums. You only have to watch live performances of the track to see how much both Peart and his fellow bandmates love playing it. 

As well as a world-class drummer, Neil was also the band’s primary lyricist from when he joined Rush. The band’s handling of obscure subjects such as science fiction, philosophy, grief and history received a mixed reception from critics in the earlier days of the band. Thankfully, today the criminally underrated trio are noted for their exceptional musicianship, authenticity and intelligence. 

Peart’s gift with words as well as technical musicianship was a major comfort for many. 

Perhaps some of the most famous lyrics include those of 2112, the band’s fourth album, which tells the story of a dictatorship where creativity and individualism are outlawed and music is unknown. He also touches on sensitive subjects such as loss (‘Afterimage’), suicide (‘The Pass’) and the struggle of being a misfit (‘Subdivisions’) through poetic lyricism which is raw and unmatched. 

 ‘In the mass production zone, nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone’

SUBDIVISIONS, ‘RUSH’

Neil Peart touched the lives of many, like the music of Rush for every person to stumble across them. With fans recognising his extraordinary talent and Lee and Lifeson celebrating their brotherhood and life of music-making together, this is a man whose impact will never die. 

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