Ask just about any rock drummer who their influences are and chances are Rush‘s Neil Peart will be high on the list. With his technically demanding and precise rhythmic style, few rock drummers have scaled the heights that Peart has over the years on both record and on stage as part of the renowned Canadian prog rock trio.
Born in Canada on September 12, 1952, Peart began taking drums lessons at the age of 13 and by the late ’60s/early ’70s, immersed himself in the challenging sounds of such rock drummers as The Who‘s Keith Moon, Emerson, Lake & Palmer‘s Carl Palmer, Yes‘ Bill Bruford, and legendary big-band drummer Buddy Rich.
After a brief stint living in England (where he discovered the writings of Ayn Rand), Peart returned to Canada in the early ’70s and found out that the up-and-coming band Rush, who had just wrapped up touring behind their debut album, was looking for a new drummer. Peart was granted a tryout and was immediately given the nod to join, as the trio (which also included singer/bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson) sought to expand on their musical direction, which then consisted of extended blues jams à la Led Zeppelin/Cream.
Peart’s entrance into the band signaled that Rush would focus on more challenging material, while the drummer also took over the reigns as the group’s lyricist. While it would take a few releases for Rush‘s new musical direction to gel (1974′s Fly by Night and 1975′s Caress of Steel), the band hit pay dirt with the 1976 concept album 2112. The album told the story of a young man’s fight against a future world where rock music is outlawed, with Peart applying Ayn Rand’s writing style and philosophies to the plot’s story line.
Rush‘s commercial success continued, as the band scored up more heavy metal-tinged progressive rock classics: 1977′s A Farewell to Kings, 1978′s Hemispheres, 1980′s Permanent Waves, and Rush‘s finest hour, 1981′s Moving Pictures. The group continued to rack up hit albums and sold-out arena tours (with all three members consistently winning magazine polls for being the best at their respective instrument), as Peart’s influence on rock drummers had become immense, as evidenced in the styles of Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy, King’s X’s Jerry Gaskill, and Primus’ Tim “Herb” Alexander.
In addition to his Rush duties, Peart has also found the time to become a writer himself, penning the books Radiance Over the Rockies and The Masked Rider, travel the world/sight-see between tours (Peart is an avid bicyclist), as well as organizing a Buddy Rich tribute concert in the early ’90s.
The future of Rush was thrust into doubt by the late ’90s, however, when Peart was dealt two devastating blows in his personal life — the tragic deaths of both his teenaged daughter and wife a year apart from each other. But by the dawn of the 21st century, it appeared as Peart was back on his feet — he remarried and rejoined his longtime Rush mates in preparing their first new studio recording since 1996′s Test for Echo. – Greg Prato