Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart dies at 67

The musician, seen as one of the best rock drummers in history, died of brain cancer in California

The Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart has died at the age of 67.

The Canadian musician had been diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago and died on 7 January in Santa Monica, California. A representative for the band confirmed the news after a spokesperson for Peart’s family released a statement.

“It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday 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,” a statement from the band read.

Peart was seen as one of the industry’s most technically proficient rock drummers. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer hall of fame in 1983, making him the youngest ever honouree. The former Police drummer Stewart Copeland called him “the most air-drummed-to drummer of all time”.

He first picked up a pair of drumsticks at the age of 13 and officially joined the band in 1974 at the age of 22, soon becoming their primary lyricist and penning the breakout song 2112.

“He was one of the goofiest-looking guys I’d ever seen … Then he sat down behind this kit and pummelled the drums – and us,” Geddy Lee, the band’s frontman, told the Guardian in 2018. “As far as I was concerned, he was hired from the minute he started playing.”

Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee in 1978
Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee in 1978. Photograph: Fin Costello/Redferns

Rush released 19 studio albums, selling more than 40m units worldwide. They are ranked third, behind the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, for most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band.

“I’ve been put in this position, and I certainly don’t underrate that,” he said to Rolling Stone in 2012, admitting that he still took drumming lessons. “I get to be a professional drummer ... So it’s a full-time responsibility. It’s a joyous one and one I’m very grateful for.”

Peart retired from the band in 2015 and the band declared itself finished in 2018.

He also wrote seven non-fiction books, including the memoir Traveling Music: Playing Back the Soundtrack to My Life and Times.

“The highest possible compliment is if someone that you admire respects your work,” Peart said in 2017. “To those that have said I inspired them to start drumming, the first thing I say is: ‘I apologise to your parents.’ But it’s wonderful just to be a little part of someone’s life like that.”

On Twitter, Gene Simmons has offered his “prayers and condolences” to Peart’s family, calling him a “kind soul”.

“I feel real bad about this - he was way too young,” Brian Wilson also tweeted. “Neil was one of the great drummers and he’ll be missed.”

Peart is survived by his wife and 10-year-old daughter.

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