Celebrating the Life of Neil Peart on his 68th Birthday
Just over eight short months go, right at the onset of 2020 - the year that will live in infamy - the world lost a genuine legend when Neil Peart succumbed to brain cancer on January 7th. While the sting of his sudden loss continues to weigh on Rush fans the world over, the breadth of his contributions to the world of music coupled with the inspiration he fueled for countless musicians will always be applauded. Today we mark Neil's 68th birthday with a brief look back at his decades-spanning career, while also highlighting recent tributes that were made to honor his memory.
Neil Ellwood Peart was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and grew up in Port Dalhousie (now part of St. Catharines). During adolescence, he floated between regional bands in pursuit of a career as a full-time drummer. After a discouraging stint in England to concentrate on his music, Neil returned home, where he joined Rush, a Toronto-based band, in mid-1974, six years after its formation. Early in his career, Neil's performance style was deeply rooted in hard rock. He drew most of his inspiration from drummers such as Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, and John Bonham, players who were at the forefront of the British hard rock scene. As time passed, he began to emulate jazz and big band musicians Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. In 1994, he became a friend and pupil of jazz instructor Freddie Gruber. It was during this time that Neil decided to revamp his playing style by incorporating jazz and swing components.
In addition to serving as Rush's primary lyricist, Neil published several memoirs about his travels. His lyrics for Rush addressed universal themes and diverse subjects including science fiction, fantasy, and philosophy, as well as secular, humanitarian, and libertarian themes. Neil authored and published a total of seven nonfiction books focused on his travels and personal stories.
On December 7, 2015, Neil Peart announced his retirement from music in an interview with Drumhead Magazine, though Geddy insisted that Neil was quoted out of context, and suggested he was "simply taking a break". However, in January 2018, Alex confirmed that Rush was retiring due to Neil's health issues. During his last years, Neil lived in Santa Monica, California with his wife, Carrie Nuttall, and their daughter, Olivia.
After Neil's passing, numerous tributes from all four corners of the globe flooded in which further cemented the impact he had on so many people. Many of those tributes were published in several magazine articles; most notably the Classic Rock Tribute article from March, the Percussive Notes article Remembering Neil Peart from their April issue, and Modern Drummer's May issue which dedicated more than half of the magazine to the memory of Neil. However Drumhead magazine's article from their April issue titled Neil Ellwood Peart: Farewell to a King contained some of the most moving tributes of all.
Reading these tributes again leads to the reopening of a wound that refuses to fully heal. Yet it also brings about a warmth in the recognition and confirmation of just how wide-spread the admiration for Neil's body of work was...IS. We shall continue to mourn his loss, but we shall also continue to celebrate his life through all that he has left us; his music, his lyrics, his aforementioned published books, and even his numerous News, Weather, and Sports blog entries. And the celebration of his life and drumming prowess will continue at the Modern Drummer Annual Festival tonight. These, and so much more, will keep the spark of Neil's life alive for generations to come.
Happy Birthday, Neil Peart. We miss you.