Remembering Neil Peart on his 70th Birthday
Today we celebrate the 70th birthday of Neil Ellwood Peart, the extraordinary drummer and lyricist of Rush who tragically succumbed to brain cancer back in January of 2020. 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 where he attempted 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.
Neil's legacy as a formidable, other-worldly drummer has been cemented for years, while his contributions as Rush’s lyricist elevated the trio beyond the simple and generic rankings of a ‘rock and roll band.’ Neil’s fierce intelligence, coupled with his unwavering dedication to his craft, allowed him to cultivate deep meaning and imagery through every verse he wrote. Though he was a deeply personal and private person, Neil nevertheless exposed his heart to his fans through his rhythmic, powerhouse drumming. But it was through his writing that he exposed us to his soul.
Most fans are aware of the collection of seven books that Neil published during his life, from the his 1996 freshman offering The Masked Rider where he chronicled his cycling trip through West Africa, to Ghost Rider, his deeply personal chronicle of surviving unimaginable loss. But before Neil became a “professional” author, he flexed his writing muscles by privately publishing four other books - Riding the Golden Lion (1985), Pedals Over The Pyrenees (1987), Raindance Over the Rockies (1988) and, finally perhaps his crowing privately-published achievement, The African Drum (1988).
Neil left this world far too soon, but he left behind a lfietime of art that fans new and old can take inspiration from for eons to come. Happy Birthday, Professor, and thank you for the inspiration, the music, the words, and the heart & soul.