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Legendary drummer Neil Peart dead at 67

Member of Canadian rock trio Rush was considered one of the best rock drummers in history
Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for Canadian rock legends Rush, died Jan. 7 after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 67. (Supplied)

Rush drummer Neil Peart has died, Rolling Stone Magazine reported Friday. He was 67.

According to the magazine, Peart had been battling brain cancer for the last three years, choosing to keep his health struggles private. He passed away Jan. 7 in Santa Monica, Calif.

In addition to his virtuosity on the drums, Peart was the primary lyrics writer for the band. He joined bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in 1974, and his lyrics were inspired by a wide range of influences, from science fiction to Ayn Rand.

“A rigorous autodidact and a gifted writer, he was also the author of numerous books,” Rolling Stone said in Peart's obituary. “He was fiercely principled, and never stopped believing in the possibilities of rock and despising what he saw as over-commercialization of the music industry.”

He retired from performing – and from Rush – formally in 2018, attributing the decision to a series of health issues. The band's final tour was in 2015, and Peart's health challenges were included in 2016's documentary on the band, Time Stand Still.

He was famous for his massive drums kits and precision playing, inspiring new generations of percussionists.

Peart was born in Hamilton in 1952, and later moved with his family to St. Catharines. He started drum lessons at age 13 and, after a stint living in England in the early 1970s, he moved back to Ontario where he took a job at his dad’s farm implement dealership.

In July of 1974, he auditioned to replace John Rutsey in an unknown band called Rush and got the gig just in time to write and record the group’s second album, Fly By Night. His style instantly changed the band’s sound and he became their primary lyricist.

Rush is one of the best-selling acts in rock music history, known for such songs as Tom Sawyer, Closer to the Heart and Subdivisions, all featuring Peart's lyrics.