Neil Peart, legendary Rush drummer, died on Friday from brain cancer at the age of 67. I’ve seen Rush in concert a few times and enjoyed most of their music. I especially enjoyed their “Rush: Behind the Lighted Stage” documentary.
In spite of their misfit nature ad limited radio airplay, Rush sold a ton of albums.
Here’s a great piece by the New Yorker about Neil and Rush. Rest in peace, Neil.
Neil Peart, the lyricist and virtuosic drummer of the Canadian progressive-rock band Rush, died on Tuesday, in Santa Monica, California. He was sixty-seven, and had been fighting brain cancer for several years. Rush formed in Toronto, in 1968 (Peart joined in 1974), and released nineteen studio albums, ten of which have sold more than a million copies in the U.S. According to Billboard, Rush presently ranks third, behind the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, for the most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band.
Peart was wildly literate, and his earnest love of science fiction informed Rush’s singular aesthetic. Along with the singer Geddy Lee and the guitarist Alex Lifeson, he helped pioneer an audacious strain of brainy, intricate hard rock that perhaps borrowed more voraciously from Ayn Rand than the blues. Though the band’s influence was vast, something about its music seemed to speak deeply and directly to marginalized young men. Both Lee and Lifeson were the children of immigrants who had left Europe following the Second World War (Lee’s parents were Holocaust survivors; Lifeson’s fled Yugoslavia after the war), and a person gets the sense that the members of Rush had internalized a certain degree of cultural exclusion. Rather than retreating, they embraced ideas that eschewed convention.Rush was struggling commercially when, in 1976, it made “2112,” an intense, ambitious, and unrelenting record about a dystopian future. The band had spent the previous year playing small, grimy venues. (In the 2010 documentary “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage,” the band jokingly referred to this stretch of shows as the “Down the Tubes” tour.) No one seemed particularly energized about the next album. Rush’s manager, Ray Danniels, had to cajole Mercury Records into not dropping the band entirely.
“2112” was a Hail Mary, but rather than dutifully capitulating to the marketplace—making something more aligned, spiritually and compositionally, with, say, Steely Dan’s “The Royal Scam” or the Rolling Stones’s “Black and Blue,” two of the most beloved commercial rock records of 1976—Rush instead assumed a kind of fuck-it abandon. The band had not assembled an audience via extensive radio play or critical adulation or corporate positioning but by people tapping each other on the shoulder and saying, “Dude, check this out.” For “2112,” the band leaned further into its idiosyncrasies rather than trying to curb them.