The shock of Neil’s passing is still resonating. A hero to some, influential to others – Neil offered the voice of reason whether it be from his drums, books, or with his calming deep baritone voice.
Although Neil wasn’t from our state, Minnesota Drummer felt the need to carry the voices of some local drummers that have been affected by his career and now his passing.
On 1/10/2020 shortly after the announcement of Neil’s passing Rush posted on their official Twitter page: “It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and bandmate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer…”
It’s safe to say the world is mourning this unbelievable loss. Godspeed Neil, thank you for your many gifts….
All photos are curtesy of Minnesota native Kyle Hansen of RKH Images – Kyle Hansen / www.rkh-images.com. These photos of Neil were taken when Rush performed in Minnesota. Kyle is a musician, rock photographer, and wedding photographer.
“Has there ever been a rock drummer who’s drumming alone touched and influenced so many? You gotta wonder how many drummers out there is he responsible for creating! I’m one of ‘em. He will forever influence what I do on the kit, and I will forever cherish his contributions to the world of music and literature! RIP Professor Peart.”
Billy Thömmes (Hairball / Johnny Lang)
Neil Peart was a drummer/ lyricist. One of the rarest combinations in music. That gave him a musicality to his drumming like no other. Rip
Bobby Z. (Prince, The Revolution)
“As a youngster, I remember an older schoolmate bringing in his portable 8 track player to school and one day playing RUSH 2112. I’ve always had a penchant for drumming since I was very young, but upon hearing the incredible drum work on this album, it immediately changed me. I became obsessed with drumming and striving to be much more than just a timekeeper like my hero, Neil Peart. To this day, I still have the oversized drum kit and his influence resonates in what I developed into my own style. No matter how much of a Metalhead I proudly am, I was always just as proud to be a Rush nerd. They could do no wrong. A profound loss.”
Tom Croxton (Thor / Hex Vortices)
“This is a huge loss to the drumming world and music in general. Definitely felt a little emotional about this one. Anyone who’s ever held a pair of sticks in their hands knows who Neil Peart is. Whether you are into Rush’s music or not you couldn’t deny and respect what a truly amazing, musical drummer he was. He was the first one to make me fall in love with this instrument. The first drummer to really just blow my mind and make me say “I want to do that”. My dad played me “2112” when I around 4 or 5, and it was a big turning point for me. I remember being obsessed with Rush immediately after that, and listening very intently to the drums specifically. I always thought playing that stuff was impossible and he was superhuman. He was someone to aspire to be as a player, and you hear the same thing from so many other well-known drummers. That level of playing seemed unreachable to even those who are already considered greats. Neil set the bar impossibly high. He was and always will be the man..it will be weird without him. RIP professor.”
Leigh Underwood (Fool Fighters)
“Saddened over the passing of Neal Peart, he truly is a legend. People who aren’t huge Rush fans may not know who Geddy Lee or Alex Lifeson is, but they know the song Tom Sawyer and that Neal Peart is the drummer. Thank you, Neal, for letting us all know where we stand when we try to attempt a Rush song. Some of his fans won’t learn of this tragedy for days because they’re still trying to figure out how to play La Villa Strangiato on drums. The bar is set very high. My heart goes out to all mourning his passing. Rest In Peace.”
Derek S Abrams (Ministry / 3 Headed Snake)
“I’m not a star-struck guy and kind of loathe the pedestalization of someone because they can act or play an instrument, but to say Neil was just an influence does not do justice to the impact he has had on my life. Literally 1000’s of hours listening, dissecting, and playing his drum parts and deciphering lyrics in an effort to get closer to what he was. Thank you for all you gave us.”
Lance Reed (Goodnight Ritual / Gracepoint)
“There will never be another Neil Peart. Same way there will never be another Buddy Rich or John Bonham. He was a true pioneer with actual artistic vision and he never strayed from it. And though his technical abilities were astounding, it was his musical curiosity and determination which made him matter. What he did truly mattered.”
Ian Prince (Porcupine, Houston)
“He was my top guy. Of course there have been other influences, but none have stuck around for as long or provided such a rich body of work to study and admire. I’ve easily spent more hours of my life trying to play along to his music than any other band or artist. And if I’m to be honest, I really never even came close to playing his parts correctly. But that never mattered. The mere act of just trying to keep up with Neil made you a better player.”
Mike Jueneman (Minnesota Drummer writer/editor, Capital Sons)
Mike wrote a piece that you can read here about how Neil impacted him. HERE
“Neil impacted me on multiple levels, his intelligence and drive for exploration had this amazing byproduct of literature, lyrics and of course his drumming; that we had the benefit to enjoy. Neil would intellectually challenge or reflect something he was studying in his lyrics. The Rush song lyric of “Freewill” to this day annoys me; specifically “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice” – the rebel in me doesn’t want to admit he’s right.
Neil was so driven because he was never satisfied; he continually sought new challenges, personal growth as greatly illustrated in his video “A Work in Progress”; I wasn’t a serious fan of Neil’s until I watched and absorbed this video – and continue to. How a giant like Neil could start over because he wasn’t satisfied with where he was at is a life’s lesson to me. Death is a lesson to the living, I think Neil’s ultimate lesson to us is to never give up, challenge life, explore, and live it while it’s here. Rest well…”
Paul “The Rög” Rogne (Minnesota Drummer, Rög’s Talkin’ DrumZ)
“While the music of Rush was never really my cup of tea, Neil’s skill, talent, and artistry were absolutely undeniable. He was a legend that did so much to advance the art and profile of drumming. If there was a Mt. Rushmore of drummers, he’d be there right alongside Buddy, Ringo, and Bonzo.”
Pete Boulger (Leslie Rich and The Rocket Soul Choir)
“The drumming world has just lost one of its true hero’s! Neil Peart was the inspiration for thousand’s of drummers and musicians alike and was a great influence to the music of our time. This loss will be felt the world over and not soon forgotten, but thankfully we can always listen to the magic he created on the many recordings he left us with.”
Jason Santa Lucia (Independent)
“It was July 4th, 1981 and my neighbors took me to see Rush at Alpine Valley in East Troy WI. They were touring the Moving Pictures album at the time. I was only 8 years old and didn’t really know what I was getting into. It was clear then and is still clear now that I had witnessed a master at work. Neil was completely exposed. There was nothing hidden in his playing. You heard everything: clarity, concept, focus, form and melodic punch. His parts were brilliant and meticulously thought out yet sounded fresh and almost improvised at every listen. Neil set the bar beautifully high for all us kids as we flailed our arms through the air, memorizing and reenacting one of the greatest drummers to have ever lived. RIP Neil!”
Greg Schutte (Mickey Hart Band, Freelancer)
“Neil Peart first caught my attention in the 1970s. I started going to rock concerts before I could drive (thanks to my very patient father), maybe around age 14… I first saw The Who, Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney & Wings, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jethro Tull, and others at a relatively young age. Rush came into the mix for me around 1977, when I saw the Farewell to Kings tour.
Back then I grew up listening to Rock & Pop/R&B and got turned onto Jazz quite soon after I started drumming, because the drummers added a different kind of voice to the music. I remember thinking the drum set I saw Neil Peart playing was like a modern day version of Sonny Greer’s (the original drummer for Duke Ellington)––resplendent with lots of tom toms and mallet percussion.
But unlike Sonny Greer, Neil Peart was not a Jazz drummer at all. In fact, I think he was the harbinger of a new breed generation of Rock drummers who were not directly influenced by Jazz drummers or Blues/Swing-based music as the first two generations of Rock drummers from the 1950s and 1960s were.
With the notable exception of Jazz/Rock Fusion icon Billy Cobham’s work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which was undeniably influential to fueling Peart’s imagination, Jazz drumming was not a component of Neil Peart’s approach and yet, from a different direction, his approach to drumming was as forward thinking as Max Roach’s was––putting the drums out front and adding to the vocabulary of the multi-percussion kit. He was able, in the space of the trio setting RUSH employed, to create compositional parts beyond beats and, in that setting––like Elvin did with Coltrane (albeit improvisationally) ––make the drums an equal voice in the music. And, in this new direction, like Buddy Rich did as the powerhouse Jazz drummer he was, Neil Peart, too, greatly inspired generations of drummers with his mindful and whirlwind approach to drumming.
My teacher, Elliot Fine, taught me the first of his beats I copped – a very clever 7/4 one found about 3:50 into the song La Villa Strangiato. Neil could navigate through odd meters with the best of them and, like Steve Gadd, really develop his parts to build and grow through the music. He was, like Terry Bozzio, too, capable of great dimension in his playing almost like Varese or Stravinsky composing from behind the drum kit.
In contrast to several drummers I know, Neil’s drumming did not, however, consume me personally as an influence. When it comes to drumming, I like just about everything––I’m just interested so I listen to a lot of different music, styles, and players and some others have definitely been bigger influences on me than Neil was… Jazz, Funk and the multi-cultural World drumming roots grabbed hold of my attention as I moved from high school into college and beyond. But I know what I like, and I remember my senior year of high school hearing Spirit of Radio from Permanent Waves definitely caught and held my attention.
I mean seriously – what the f#*k was that, anyway?! Holy shit! Pardon my French but let’s not beat around the bush here––these quirky Canadian dudes leveled up in blistering fashion with a hailstorm of virtuosity, passion, humor and the kitchen sink all in one slam/dunk that they clobbered us with––laughing all the way! I used to try and play that tune but I also used to try and cross-country run figures 8s around Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet at that time, too… I could get through those tasks but not with the force of nature and authority Neil Peart did from behind his drum set. Incredible.
And really, that tune was just the overture to the masterpiece that followed. I was in college when Moving Pictures dropped and after that, in a way, RUSH was over for me. I loved that album. They trimmed the excess from their approach and crafted some amazing memorable songs, all complete with the driving energy and the element of surprise that made them RUSH, but this time around the recorded mastering and presence of the instruments in the mix on that LP introduced a new level of high-fidelity to our stereo systems and our ears. It literally exploded and shred through the speakers. I listened to it over and over and over again. I learned a new lick I figured out and still love and use today (ask me about it!). For me it was their Apex.
YYZ, Limelight, Red Barchetta, c’mon…?!? Wow. And Tom Sawyer. I mean seriously – what the f#*k was that, anyway?! Holy shit! Pardon my French but let’s not beat around the bush here––Tom Sawyer was just a book by Mark Twain until Neal Peart got ahold of it. (Kidding––but serious!) I’m not even going into Peart’s prowess as a lyricist here or how the band managed to make all of that somehow work. I don’t care if you like RUSH or not (I’m not the biggest RUSH fan in the world, by far) but that is some truly impressive composition, gang. One for the ages, amirite?!
And air drumming? Air drumming would never be the same. I caught the Moving Pictures and Signals tours after that and was swept into the tribal joy of air drumming along with Neil Peart in an arena full of the devoted. That was fun! And then I moved on.
My ear took me on a different journey. But I always return to Moving Pictures to feel its spirit. Neil never looked like the most relaxed drummer to me when he played and he certainly set the bar high for himself night after night––and that’s a tall order but, you know what?
The tape doesn’t lie.
I’m not talking about today––today tape can lie and does with Pro-Tools and all the hardware that you can polish a turd with but back then, you could multi-track and edit tape, sure, but you still had to really play and get it right. And the sheer emotion coming out of those tracks on Moving Pictures is pure energy as blinding and true as the brightest light.
And that’s what I’ll remember Neil Peart by. His honesty. He achieved great success, but it came with a cost, over and over for the man. Read his book, The Ghost Rider. If it doesn’t first break your heart and ultimately give you hope, check your pulse–you may not be human.
I couldn’t help but notice that Neil Peart passed from the Earth in 2020 on January 10th, the same day Max Roach was born into this Earth in 1924. Maybe that’s not a coincidence. Both men had an incredible sense of meter and imagination that has left an indelible mark on our instrument. It is a day of celebration, in my opinion. Wherever their souls are now, the light is still bright I’m sure. How could it not be. They are eternal flames.”
David Stanoch (David Stanoch School of Drumming, Author of “Mastering The Tables of Time”, Minnesota Drummer)
“I was a sophomore in high school, I had just joined my first rock band. After a quick meeting where the repertoire list was discussed, songs like “Purple Haze” and “Rock n’ Roll” were added. I felt pretty confident that I could handle those, but then “YYZ” by Rush was suggested. I had to admit I had never listened to Rush. The bass player quickly produced a cassette tape of “Moving Pictures” and said, “song 3 on the first side”. I put the tape in my Walkman on the way to school the next morning. I remember hearing “Tom Sawyer” first. Being struck initially by the power of the first chord played on the Oberheim and crispness of the drums cutting through. Then Geddy Lee started to sing… I didn’t really know what to make of the overall sound of the band at that point. I didn’t quite understand how all the ingredients fit together, I almost gave up and thought, maybe this isn’t my thing when the iconic synth line hit. Then the band launched into a thoroughly arranged odyssey in 7/4. I definitely took notice of how the drums led the charge. The drummer wasn’t just winging it or playing time. He was conducting from the drum set with immaculate precision. I think I listened to the first side of that cassette for a few weeks before turning it over to hear side 2. There was so much to digest, I was constantly running to my drum set and attempting to recreate those sounds!
A few decades later, I’m still just as inspired by Neil Peart. I don’t try to sound like him as much anymore and I don’t play a wraparound drum set, but I am inspired by his vision and how he pursued it. He didn’t sound like any drummer before him and set a new standard for what it meant to be a rock drummer. He didn’t only have a hand in creating the musical and lyrical content in Rush, but he made every drum fill part of the composition. He custom fit each winding riff with a complimentary drum pattern. Thoughtfully steering the band to the songs apex by adding tension with an ear bending fill or introducing a more exotic sound from another part of the kit. I can’t imagine any Rush song with a different drummer, or with different lyrics, or even with one drum fill out of place. If there wasn’t a Neil Peart, I don’t think Rush would’ve made the impact that they did. There wouldn’t have been generations of loyal fans. There wouldn’t be thousands of air drummers at every show, playing in unison. There wouldn’t have been that excited kid, racing to get home to his drums while “Subdivisions” is blasting in his headphones.
Thank you Neil for following your vision. You will forever be an inspiration.”
Peter Henning (Freelance musician, instructor)
All Photos Copyright RKH Images – Kyle Hansen / www.rkh-images.com