According to reports, Peart died on 7 January in Santa Monica, California, three years after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Elliot Mintz, a spokesperson for the Peart family, confirmed the news to Rolling Stone.
Peart, who retired from Rush and professional drumming in 2015, was considered as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, known for his virtuosic playing and lyrics that drew on science fiction books and the works of Ayn Rand.
According to the Detroit Free Press, he dominated the annual “best-of” polls in Modern Drummer so often during the Eighties that he was eventually removed and placed on a special honour roll, instead.
The Canadian musician, who grew up in Port Dalhousie, Ontario, joined Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson in Rush in 1974. He wrote several books about his life, including the memoir Traveling Music: Playing Back the Soundtrack to My Life and Times.
Rush released 19 studio albums and have sold more than 40 million units worldwide. The band rank third, after The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, for most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band.
Former Police drummer Stewart Copeland said of Peart in 2015: “Neil is the most air-drummed-to drummer of all time. [He] pushes that band, which has a lot of musicality, a lot of ideas crammed into every eight bars – but he keeps the throb, which is the important thing. And he can do that while doing all kinds of cool s**t.”
Peart first retired from Rush in the late Nineties, following the death of his daughter, Selena, in a car crash, and after losing his first wife, Jacqueline, to cancer.
His second wife Carrie Nuttall, whom he married in 2000, persuaded him to return to the band, which led to something of a career renaissance for Rush.
In 2013, the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The ceremony included a tribute performance by the Foo Fighters, who wore wigs and flowing satin robes similar to what Rush’s members wore in the Seventies. Foos’ frontman Dave Grohl said he cried after meeting Peart for the first time.
“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.”
In a statement, Lee and Lifeson called Peart their “friend, soul brother and bandmate over 45 years” and said he had been “incredibly brave” in dealing with an aggressive form of brain cancer.
“We ask that friends, fans, and media alike understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time,” they said. “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. Rest in peace, brother.”
Brian Wilson tweeted: “I feel real bad about this - he was way too young. Neil was one of the great drummers and he’ll be missed.”
Peart is survived by his wife, Carrie, and his 10-year-old daughter, Olivia.