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Neal Peart – Rush’s virtuoso drum hero

Written by on January 9, 2021

Neal Peart made it only 10 months into his hard-won retirement before he started to feel like something was wrong. Words were, for once, the problem. Peart, one-third of the Toronto band Rush, was one of the world’s most worshipped drummers, unleashing his unearthly skills upon rotating drum kits that grew to encompass what seemed like every percussive possibility within human invention. Before band rehearsals for Rush tours, he’d practice on his own for weeks to ensure he could replicate his parts. His forearms bulged with muscle; his huge hands were calloused. But he was also the self-educated intellect behind Rush’s singularly cerebral and philosophical lyrics, and the author of numerous books, specializing in memoir intertwined with motorcycle travelogues, all of it rendered in luminous detail.

Peart took constant notes, kept journals, sent emails that were more like Victorian-era correspondence, wrote pieces for drum magazines, and posted essays and book reviews on his website. Despite ending his formal education at age 17, he never stopped working toward a lifelong goal of reading “every great book ever written.” He tended to use friends’ birthdays as an excuse to send “a whole fucking story about his own life,” as Rush singer-bassist Geddy Lee puts it, with a laugh.

Peart laid down his drumsticks after Rush’s final show in August 2015, shortly before his 63rd birthday, but he intended to continue his writing career, which exacted less of a physical toll than pummeling a snare drum. He envisioned a quiet life. He’d work nine-to-five in what he liked to call his “man cave,” a plush garage for his vintage-car collection that doubled as his office, just a block away from his home in Santa Monica, California. The rest of his time he’d spend with Carrie Nuttall, his wife of 20 years, and his elementary-school-age daughter, Olivia, who adored him. He planned to spend summers with them at his spectacular lakeside country property in Quebec, not far from the former site of Le Studio, the picturesque spot where Rush recorded Moving Pictures and other albums.

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