This week we lost The Professor. Neil Peart, the principal songwriter and Mt Rushmore drummer for legendary Canadian prog rock band, Rush has passed away at 67. Announced today, Peart ended his three and a half year battle with brain cancer three days ago.
Peart was immediately recognized for his larger than life drum performances and iconic 48 piece kit. His technical prowess and virtuosic sense of timing gave Rush's outlandish song concepts launched Rush to one of the biggest prog rock acts of all time. Taking cues from the frantic nature of Keith Moon, the tightness of John Bonham, and the sophistication of jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and Max Roach, he was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1983, making him the youngest honoree in history.
Hailing from St. Catherines, Ontario, Peart had floated around the rock scene in England and Canada before finding his ideal counterparts in bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson, two powerhouse musicians in their own right. As a trio, Rush had as strong if not stronger arrangements than most 11 piece bands and much of it can be traced to Peart's titanic solos and symphonic approach.
Rush hit the stratosphere with the release of 2112, subsequently releasing five well received albums in four years and playing as many as 300 gigs a year. Watching Peart play the towering break on "Tom Sawyer", the lead in to "Limelight", and the solo with prominent use of bells on "YYZ" was a major attraction for Rush fans at the group's famously high caliber live shows. His kit included orchestra bells, tubular bells, wind chimes, timbales, timpani, gong, temple blocks, bell tree, cowbells, an entire electronic set, and a rotating chair. Peart popularized playing "butt-end out", which involved reversing stick orientation for increased rimshot capacity.
Throughout his career, Peart also moonlighted as a writer of fiction and published his memoirs. He released seven books ranging from science fiction to philosophy. In later years after facing two large tragedies Peart announced his retirement, though frontman Geddy Lee insisted that Peart was just taking a break.