RIP Neil Peart (1952-2020), drummer and lyricist extraordinaire

Suddenly you were gone

From all the lives you made your mark upon

(Rush, “Afterimage”)

Neil Peart, longtime drummer and lyricist of the progressive hard rock trio Rush, succumbed to a brain tumor in Santa Monica this week, CBC reports. He passed away on January 7, but his family only released the news his demise today. He is survived by his second wife, photographer Carrie Nuttall Peart, and their young daughter Olivia (b. 2009).

He was a musician’s musician, a master of odd meters and complex textures.

No stranger to tragedy, he lost his first wife and his daughter to illness and accident within the space of a year. He coped with his grief by a transcontinental motorcycle journey that inspired his first prose book, Ghost Rider. Several travelogue books followed, as well as instructional DVDs.

But more than a prose writer, more even than a virtuoso drummer, he was a lyricist of rarely matched, never surpassed expressive power. Rock music and adjacent genres have many perceptive lyricists and many good storytellers. None ever hit me in the gut the way Peart could, and I know they moved many others equally deeply.

May his memory be for a blessing.

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