Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for Canadian progressive rock band Rush, died Tuesday at age 67, according to a representative for Geddy Lee.
A family statement says Peart died in Santa Monica, Calif., after battling glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, for more than three years.
“It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news,” his Rush bandmates said in a joint statement on Friday.
“(Our) friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three-and-a-half year battle with brain cancer.”
Born in Hamilton, Peart spent much of his childhood in St. Catharines, Ont., developing an interest in music during his youth.
Rush was formed in 1968, about six years before Peart joined the band after their first album. He replaced the original drummer John Rutsey.
It was the revised Rush trio that became immensely popular, selling millions of records around the world. Peart took the role of virtuoso drummer and chief lyricist.
Several of their albums — “2112,” “Moving Pictures,” “All the World’s a Stage” and “Exit … Stage Left” — have sold more than one million copies each in the U.S. alone.
In 1997, Peart — along with bandmates Lee and Alex Lifeson — became the first rock musicians to be inducted into the Order of Canada.
That same year, Peart lost his 19-year-old daughter Selena Taylor in a car accident. In 1998, his wife, Jackie Taylor, died of cancer.
Peart remarried to Carrie Nuttall in 2000.
In 2013, the band finally made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which many fans felt was long overdue.
“We’ve been saying for a long time — years — that this wasn’t a big deal,” Peart said. “Turns out, it kind of is.”
Peart reflected on faith when writing the lyrics for the band’s 2007 album “Snakes & Arrows.” It was a theme inspired by a motorcycle road trip he took across the United States in 2004, the year the band put on a 30th anniversary tour.
“I tried hard to look at it as a subject — what’s good about it — and tried to balance that against what I saw as not being a good thing,” Peart said in a 2006 interview with The Canadian Press.
“All we’re seeing, especially in the world today, is a very malevolent kind of faith, in fundamentalism of all kinds, on both sides. One of the lines I use in the new songs equates Middle East and Middle West, because this stuff is going on in both localities, although both would probably be insulted by the comparison.”
Rush embarked on a 40th anniversary tour in mid-2015 that wound up being their last. At the time Peart attributed it at least partly to chronic tendonitis and shoulder problems. Lee has since acknowledged that it might’ve come as a surprise event to the band themselves.
“I don’t think in our heart of hearts we believed it was the end — even though it did turn out to be the end,” Lee said in a 2018 interview.
“Maybe we would’ve served our fans better if we had just accepted the reality that yeah, this is going to be our last tour, and tell everybody. But they sort of had that sense and they came out because of it anyway.”
The band asked friends, fans and the media to “understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time.”
“Those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil Peart’s name,” the band added in their statement.
“Rest in peace brother.”
Peart is survived by his wife, Carrie, and their daughter, Olivia Louise Peart
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2020.
With files from Victoria Ahearn.