Neil Peart (1952-2020)

On Friday evening, January 10, 2020, we got the shocking news that Neil Peart, drummer for the band Rush, had died. He had died the previous Tuesday, January 7, but the announcement came days later. Like many people, I consider Peart to be the greatest drummer of all time.

My cousin Mark introduced me to Rush in 1980 after the release of Moving Pictures. Even at the age of 12, I could tell this band was composed of amazing musicians. I don’t play an instrument myself, but have always been drawn to the drums. And Neil was the best.

During Rush’s nearly 3-hour shows, Peart would include an extensive drum solo. Towards the last ten years, Peart played some form of this solo. This version is from the R30 (30th anniversary) tour around 2004.

So Peart not only bangs on the drums and cymbals, but he plays an electronic MIDI percussion mallet controller (MalletKAT) like a vibraphone with his sticks.

Here is another version of the drum solo, called “The Rhythm Method” from 1997.

Of course, the first famous Neil Peart drum solo appeared in the middle of the song “YYZ” on the live Exit… Stage Left album from 1981. In the middle of a difficult solo, he plays a little song on toms and cowbells.

In addition to his playing (and lyrics) for Rush, Peart created a tribute album to Buddy Rich. In this video he plays a much simpler drum setup in a jazz format, but also includes an extensive solo, some of it taken from the “YYZ” solo.

Neil confined most of his recorded work to Rush, but he did release a few solo works. The best of these was a song called “Pieces of Eight” composed entirely of drums and percussion (including his MalletKAT). It was included as a sound supplement to the May 1987 issue of Modern Drummer.

Neil had already retired from the band, and Rush had ended in 2018. But now we certainly know there will be no more amazing performance by Neil Peart.

Peart was also an author, writing several travel memoirs. He rode his BMW motorcycle all over the world and wrote about it in books such as Ghost Rider (North and Central America), The Masked Rider (Africa), Far and Away, and Far and Near.

His passing feels like losing a longtime friend.