Neil Peart: Rush Drummer’s Bold Life and Brave Final Years

Neil Peart made it solely 10 months into his hard-won retirement earlier than he began to really feel like one thing was mistaken. Words have been, for as soon as, the issue. Peart, one-third of the Toronto band Rush, was one of many world’s most worshipped drummers, unleashing his unearthly abilities upon rotating drum kits that grew to embody what appeared like each percussive risk inside human invention. Before band rehearsals for Rush excursions, he’d follow on his personal for weeks to make sure he might replicate his components. His forearms bulged with muscle; his big fingers have been calloused. But he was additionally the self-educated mind behind Rush’s singularly cerebral and philosophical lyrics, and the creator of quite a few books, specializing in memoir intertwined with motorbike travelogues, all of it rendered in luminous element. 

Peart took fixed notes, stored journals, despatched emails that have been extra like Victorian-era correspondence, wrote items for drum magazines, and posted essays and e book evaluations on his web site. Despite ending his formal schooling at age 17, he by no means stopped working towards a lifelong objective of studying “every great book ever written.” He tended to make use of buddies’ birthdays as an excuse to ship “a whole fucking story about his own life,” as Rush singer-bassist Geddy Lee places it, with amusing. 

“I do a lot of my thinking that way,” Peart advised me in 2015. “There is a quote from E.M. Forster. He used to say, ‘How do I know what I think until I see what I say?’ For me, that’s when I write.”

Peart laid down his drumsticks after Rush’s remaining present in August 2015, shortly earlier than his 63rd birthday, however he meant to proceed his writing profession, which exacted much less of a bodily toll than pummeling a snare drum. He envisioned a quiet life. He’d work nine-to-five in what he appreciated to name his “man cave,” an opulent storage for his vintage-car assortment that doubled as his workplace, only a block away from his dwelling in Santa Monica, California. The remainder of his time he’d spend with Carrie Nuttall, his spouse of 20 years, and his elementary-school-age daughter, Olivia, who adored him. He deliberate to spend summers with them at his spectacular lakeside nation property in Quebec, not removed from the previous website of Le Studio, the picturesque spot the place Rush recorded Moving Pictures and different albums.

Photograph by Fin Costello/Rush Archives

Before Rush’s remaining tour started, Peart obtained a style of the day-to-day existence he needed. He ached to return to it, a rock star pining after mundanity like a cubicle drone daydreaming of dwelling within the limelight. “It was awfully hard for me to turn away from a contented domestic life, a contented creative life,” he advised me in 2015, sipping Macallan on ice in his storage simply earlier than the tour. “I’d wait till Olivia went to school in the morning and then come over here. I’m an early riser, as she is. I’d go pick up lunch and come back here. And again, I never take it for granted. I’ll be walking down Olympic to Starbucks or to Subway or whatever, thinking, ‘Isn’t this great?’ ”

After the tour, when Peart wasn’t working in his man cave, he volunteered for library time at Olivia’s college. “Olivia was thrilled,” says Nuttall. “She got to see Daddy at school all the time.” At night time, he’d come dwelling and prepare dinner household dinners. “He was living his life exactly the way he wanted for the first time in decades, probably,” she says. “It was a very sweet, content time … and then the gods, or whatever you want to call it, snatched it all away.”

“I just feel so bad,” says Lee, “that he had so little time to live out what he fought so hard to get.”

Peart began doing newspaper crossword puzzles again within the early Seventies, when he traveled to England from his native Canada to make it as a drummer, solely to finish up because the supervisor of a memento store, with time to kill on a tube commute. For the previous couple of a long time, he made a ritual of whipping by means of the New York Times Sunday puzzle. In June 2016, he was baffled to seek out himself scuffling with that job. “He couldn’t figure it out,” says Rush’s longtime supervisor, Ray Danniels. “ ‘What was the matter?’ ”

Peart stored his concern to himself, however by summer time, he was displaying indicators of what Nuttall assumed to be despair. She broached the topic with Danniels throughout a go to to the supervisor’s home in Muskoka, Ontario. “I was like, ‘Carrie, he got everything he wants,’ ” Danniels remembers. “ ‘He won. He got his freedom. He got a huge paycheck off the last tour. This is not depression.’ ”

In late August, Nuttall and Peart’s mom each observed that he was unusually quiet. When he did converse, he began “making mistakes with his words,” as he later advised his bandmates. He rushed to a health care provider, and after an MRI, ended up in surgical procedure. The prognosis was grim: glioblastoma, an aggressive mind most cancers with a mean survival time of roughly 12 to 18 months. 

Genetic testing of Peart’s most cancers recommended it was unusually treatable, and Peart lived till January seventh, 2020, greater than three years after his prognosis, which, within the case of this sickness, certified him as a “long-term survivor.” 

“Three and a half years later,” says Lee, “he was still having a smoke on the porch. So he said a big ‘Fuck you’ to the Big C as long as he could.”

Shortly earlier than the surgical procedure, Peart positioned an uncharacteristic FaceTime name to Alex Lifeson, on the Rush guitarist’s birthday. “It was so unusual to get a call from him, because he was never comfortable on the phone,” says Lifeson. “You’d get these beautiful emails from him. But he wasn’t that crazy about talking to anybody. I was in shock. But I could tell there was something weird. I thought maybe it was a difficulty with a connection or something. But he just didn’t seem like he normally was. And I kept thinking about it afterwards.”

A few weeks later, Peart despatched an electronic mail to his bandmates with the information. He didn’t pull any punches. “He basically blurted it out,” Lee remembers. “ ‘I have a brain tumor. I’m not joking.’ ”

Lifeson was at a golf course when he obtained the message. “I think I started crying right there,” he says.

“You go into fight-or-flight mode,” Lee says. For Lifeson and Lee, the precedence grew to become discovering possibilities to see their pal, who lived removed from their mutual dwelling base of Toronto. 

Peart dealt with his sickness with heroic energy and stoicism, buddies say, at the same time as he fought to outlive. “He was a tough man,” says Lee. “He was nothing if not stoic, that man. … He was pissed off, obviously. But he had to accept so much horrible shit. He got very good at accepting shitty news. And he was OK with it. He was going to do his best to stick around as long as he could, for the sake of his family. And he did unbelievably well. … He accepted his fate, certainly more gracefully than I would.”

There was a sure fatalism to Peart, who wrote music after music in regards to the randomness of the universe, and then noticed the occasions of his personal life show it to him. In 1997, his daughter Selena died in a automotive accident on the best way to school; his common-law spouse, Jackie, died of most cancers quickly after. Peart’s loss was so all-encompassing that regardless of his rationalist bent, he couldn’t assist questioning whether or not he’d someway been cursed.

“My daughter died at 19, and my wife died at 42, and I’m 62 and I’m still going,” he advised me in 2015, discussing his refusal to contemplate quitting smoking (which isn’t believed to be a probable explanation for glioblastoma). “How many people have died younger than me? How many drummers have died younger than me? I’m already in bonus time. … Something is gonna kill me. Look, I ride motorcycles. I drive fast cars. I fly around a lot in airplanes. It’s a dangerous life out there. I like what one old-timer said about motorcycling: ‘If you love motorcycling enough, it’s gonna kill you. The trick is to survive long enough that something else kills you first.’ ” 

For all of that bravado, he couldn’t abide the thought of leaving his daughter behind. “That bothered him terribly,” Danniels says. “It bothered him that he had come full circle. At first, he felt the pain of having lost a child. And now he was leaving a child.”

Peart had his personal mourning course of to get by means of, says Nuttall, “for the future he was not going to have and for everything he would miss out on with Olivia, and with me, and with life itself. If anyone lived life to the fullest, it was Neil. And there was still much he wanted to do. When everyone says, ‘Oh, he was so stoic and accepted his fate,’ and all that? Yes, he did. But it also broke his heart.”

Peart was decided to take advantage of his remaining time, simply as he had at all times sought to maximise his days. “What’s the most excellent thing I can do today?” he used to ask himself. The reply typically meant roaring by means of a nationwide park on a BMW motorbike earlier than enjoying drums in an area. (“You can do a lot in a lifetime,” he wrote within the lyrics to “Marathon,” one among Rush’s strongest songs, “if you don’t burn out too fast.”) That was one among his signatures as a drummer, too, cramming an unbelievable quantity of rhythmic data into every bar of music; he made his dwelling by pushing the bounds of time.

FLY BY NIGHT: Lee, Peart, and Lifeson (from left) in 1977. Peart tried to finish Rush’s touring days as early as 1989.

Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

“He lived incredibly deeply and richly,” says one among his shut buddies, former Jethro Tull drummer Doane Perry. “Which might mean being on his own, reading a book at his place up in Canada on the lake — that was just as fully engaging as being onstage in front of tens of thousands of people.” 

Peart’s lifelong want for privateness grew stronger. His sickness was a secret stored amongst a small circle of buddies, who managed to protect their data to the very finish. For Lee and Lifeson, who have been doing interviews and fielding calls from buddies and friends about rumors, the burden of concealment was heavy. “Neil asked us not to discuss it with anyone,” says Lifeson. “He just wanted to be in control of it. The last thing in the world he would want is people sitting on his sidewalk or driveway singing ‘Closer to the Heart’ or something. That was a great fear of his. He didn’t want that attention at all. And it was definitely difficult to lie to people or to sidestep or deflect somehow. It was really difficult.”

Peart at all times dismissed pointless dialogue of disagreeable topics with a hand wave and a hearty “never mind,” and that’s what buddies heard in the event that they tried citing his sickness or therapy. “He didn’t want to waste his remaining time talking about shit like that,” says Lee. “He wanted to have fun with us. And he wanted to talk about real things right up to the very end.”

Peart by no means complained, Lee jokes, until he “ran out of smokes.” “One time I arrived without any alcohol,” provides Lee, a severe wine collector. “And I’m famous for arriving at his house with what he used to call ‘your bucket of wine.’ And I didn’t bring it this one time. And he was just so appalled. So of course, the next day, Alex and I went to a wine store and made sure we arrived with a bucket of wine. And all was good again.”

Peart additionally overcame a lifelong aversion to retrospection and nostalgia, spending a major period of time listening to his catalog with Rush. “When we talk about his intense desire to be learning,” says one other shut pal, Vertical Horizon frontman Matt Scannell, “very hand in hand with that spirit is, ‘What’s new? What next?’ Back when I’d send him mix CDs, if it was old, he wasn’t interested. But I thought it was beautiful that he found something to enjoy about looking back, whereas before, it was kind of anathema.”

“I don’t think any of us listen to a lot of our old music,” says Lifeson. “It’s all been done and played. But my guess is that he was just reviewing some of the things that he accomplished, in terms of music, anyways. And I think he was a little surprised at how well it turned out. I think that happens, you kind of forget. It was interesting to see him smile and feel really good about that. And when he still could write to us, he wrote about how he was reviewing some of our older music and how it stood up for him.”

Lee wasn’t stunned. “Knowing Neil the way I do,” he says, “and knowing that he knew how much time he had left, I think it was a natural thing for him to review the work of his life. And he was finding himself very proud of how he had spent a big chunk of his life. And he wanted to share that with Alex and I. Whenever we saw him, he wanted to talk about that. He wanted us to know that he was proud.”

Fly By Night, Peart’s debut album with Rush, begins with the intro to “Anthem”: guitar, bass, and drums interlocked in a brutally syncopated riff, in ⅞ time, with a few of the most crisp high-hat work the rock world had ever heard. From there, the music grew to become a ferocious salute to Ayn Rand-inspired individualism. The Rand affect was highly effective at that time for a younger Peart, adhering to his public picture for many years, however he’d quickly regard it as philosophic and mental coaching wheels, at finest. He’d ultimately name himself a “left-wing libertarian” or “bleeding-heart libertarian,” and inform Rolling Stone in 2015 that he deliberate to vote Democratic after gaining his U.S. citizenship.

On Rush’s earlier album, recorded with a much more restricted drummer, John Rutsey, Lee had been singing come-ons (“Hey, baby, it’s a quarter to eight/I feel I’m in the mood!”) over bar-band Zeppelinisms; now he was screeching objectivist philosophy over thrilling, twisty prog-metal, a style his band was inventing second by second. “We wanted to be the most complex hard-rock band out there, that was our goal,” Lee advised me in 2015. “So I knew from the very first audition that this was the drummer of our dreams.”

GHOST RIDER: Peart took to touring from present to point out on Rush’s excursions by way of motorbike, even at age 62.

Juan Lopez

Peart spent his infancy on a household farm, earlier than his father — who would ultimately run his personal auto-parts enterprise — moved the household to Port Dalhousie, a suburb of the small metropolis of St. Catharines, Ontario. Until his teenage years, Peart’s childhood was comparatively idyllic. He spent a lot of his time outdoor, cultivating what grew to become a lifelong reference to nature. “Where he was really most comfortable was in nature and in quiet and a degree of solitude,” says his pal Doane Perry. 

There was one deeply traumatic incident. Swimming in Lake Ontario when he was round 10, Peart grew drained and tried to seize onto a buoyed raft, earlier than some older boys determined it could be humorous to maintain him off of it. Peart flailed within the water, feeling himself begin to drown. At the final minute, two classmates saved his life. Peart was left with a sure mistrust of strangers, and would flash again to the fear of that second years later, when he was unfortunate sufficient to be caught in a crush of followers. He developed a phobia of feeling “trapped” that will form his profound discomfort with fame and his fixed want to flee the cloistered world of rock touring. 

Peart was good sufficient to skip two grades, beginning highschool at 12. He started drum classes, practising for a full yr with out an precise package. Peart’s first spark of curiosity in drums got here with a viewing of The Gene Krupa Story, a biopic in regards to the big-band drummer; big-band jazz was Peart’s dad’s favourite music, and Peart would take a severe stab at enjoying it later in life. Keith Moon, the Who’s wild-man drummer, grew to become his hero, however as Peart’s abilities developed, he realized he didn’t really wish to play like Moon. The chaos didn’t go well with him. Peart would discover a method to embody Moon’s power whereas staying true to his personal spirit, enjoying components that have been even flashier and extra dramatic, but in addition extra exact and composed, following a form of three-dimensional geometric logic.  (Ever stressed, Peart, in his later years, reversed course and labored on his improvisational facet.)

Teenage Peart grew his hair lengthy and began carrying a cape and purple footwear. Local jocks have been unimpressed. “I was totally happy up until the teenage years,” he advised me, “when suddenly — I didn’t know I was a freak, but the world made me aware of it.” He was enjoying in his first bands and turning into fully obsessed along with his instrument. He’d solely cease practising when his mother and father made him. “From the time I started playing drums, there was only drums and music,” Peart stated. “I did great in school up until that point, and then it just didn’t matter.”

He dropped out at 17, and by the following yr made his method to London. He spent 18 irritating months there, returning to Canada with very totally different concepts about his musical profession. He determined he couldn’t stand enjoying music he didn’t consider in for cash, and would fairly work a day job and play for enjoyable. “I set out to never betray the values that 16-year-old had, to never sell out, to never bow to the man,” he advised me.

He was offended by what he noticed as pandering and corrupt commercialism within the rock world; there’s real contempt within the line in regards to the “sound of salesmen” he’d later write in “The Spirit of Radio.” After a stint on the native file retailer, the place he labored with the brothers of his future spouse, Jackie Taylor, he settled right into a job as components supervisor at his father’s enterprise, serving to to computerize the stock system.

ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE: Rush sounded larger than any odd three-piece.

Fin Costello/Rush Archives

Peart’s first try at odd life lasted barely a yr earlier than he was recruited to audition for a Toronto band already signed to a serious label. Peart joined Rush, and started 40 years of recording and touring. “You look at him in photographs in the early days,” says Lee, “and he had a great smile. He was very happy for a very long time. Only after years of grueling road work did that smile start to wear away a little bit.”

From the start, although, Peart discovered the downtime on the highway stultifying. He began placing it to make use of, plowing by means of ever-growing stacks of paperback books, filling within the gaps of his schooling. At the identical time, he laced Rush’s early albums with a few of rock’s oddest and most colourful lyrics. (“I have dined on honeydew!” Lee famously yelps on the 1977 traditional “Xanadu.”) In his songwriting, Peart drew at first on his love of science fiction, fantasy, and Rand, earlier than shifting to extra earthbound issues by the Eighties.

Rolling with a few of these early lyrics was a “leap of faith” for the band, Lee acknowledges: “Sometimes you weren’t into it! And you didn’t want to do it. You had to talk about it.” As the years glided by, the method grew to become ever extra collaborative. “For many years,” Lee provides, “Neil sat beside me in the control room when we listened back to vocals, and we’d talk about something that could be improved and he would rewrite it on the spot.” Later, Lee may choose only a few traces he appreciated, and Peart would rewrite songs round them.

The band’s breakthrough, 1976’s monumental, riff-happy rock operetta “2112,” was lifeless severe in its livid salute to non-public freedom; the clergymen of Syrinx, who managed every little thing of their dystopian society, have been a skinny stand-in for file execs who needed Rush to sound extra like Bad Company (and for teenage followers, mother and father who simply didn’t perceive).

There was extra humor within the band and in Peart’s Seventies writing than a few of his critics understood — 1975’s “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” was impressed, as an illustration, by the nicknames of two canine Danniels owned. “I remember one morning saying to Geddy, wouldn’t it be funny if we did a fantasy piece on By-Tor and the Snow Dog?” Peart advised me. Even of their peak-prog second, 1978’s Hemispheres, the band was self-aware sufficient to provide the wry subtitle “An Exercise in Self-Indulgence” to “La Villa Strangiato,” a twisty masterpiece of an instrumental. 

“The Spirit of Radio,” from 1979’s Permanent Waves, lived as much as its title, successful Rush intensive FM airplay, adopted by their biggest-ever album, Moving Pictures, with Peart’s awe-inspiring efficiency on “Tom Sawyer,” highlighted by a few of the most indelible drum fills in rock historical past. Rush have been now big, and Peart wasn’t having fun with it. When he heard Roger Waters’ depiction of rock alienation on Pink Floyd’s The Wall, he wrote Waters a letter of appreciation for capturing his personal emotions so nicely. 

His pal Matt Stone, South Park’s co-creator, was shocked to seek out how ill-at-ease Peart may very well be about being acknowledged in public, even late in his profession. “He was a really weird guy about his fame,” Stone says. (For that cause, Peart significantly cherished Stone’s Halloween events, the place he might meet individuals whereas in disguise — which, one yr, meant full drag.)

Peart developed methods to interrupt free. “I carried a bicycle on the tour bus and sometimes on days off I’d go riding in the country,” he advised me, “and then, if the cities were a hundred miles apart, I could do it on my own, and that was the biggest thrill. The whole entourage left, and I’d be in the little town in a motel room and on my own, and in those days no cellphones or anything. Just me and my bicycle.” He took extracurricular journeys, too, using by means of Africa (toting, on one journey, a replica of Aristotle’s Ethics and a group of Vincent Van Gogh’s letters) and China. The deprivation he witnessed in Africa was transformative, pushing the “bleeding heart” a part of his libertarianism to the floor. 

Peart tried to finish Rush’s touring days as early as 1989, when his daughter Selena was 11 years outdated. “After much wrestling in my own mind I came to the realization, if I’m going to call myself a musician, then I’m going to have to perform live,” he advised me. “I like rehearsing much better than performing. It’s got all the challenge and gratification, but without the pressure. And you don’t have to leave home. Even in ’89, I was thinking, ‘Imagine if they had a hologram, so every day I just went to one place and played my heart out, and then went home.’ ”

Peart felt intense strain, night time after night time, to dwell as much as his personal fame. “He never rated himself as highly as everyone else did,” says Police drummer Stewart Copeland, one other pal. “But he did very much feel the responsibility that he carried to be the god of drums. Kind of a burden, actually.”

ANALOG KID: Beginning with Rush’s earliest excursions, Peart used downtime to learn endlessly.

Carrie Nuttall

In May 1994, on the Power Station recording studio in New York, Peart gathered collectively nice rock and jazz drummers, from Steve Gadd to Matt Sorum to Max Roach, for a tribute album he was producing for the good swing drummer Buddy Rich. Peart observed one of many gamers, Steve Smith, had improved strikingly for the reason that final time he had seen him, and realized that he studied with the jazz guru Freddie Gruber. In the yr of his forty second birthday, whereas he was already broadly thought of to be the best rock drummer alive, Peart sought out Gruber and began taking drum classes. “What is a master but a master student?” Peart advised Rolling Stone in 2012.

He was satisfied that years of enjoying together with sequencers for the extra synth-y songs in Rush’s Eighties catalog had stiffened his drumming, and he needed to loosen again up. (For all of his efforts and mastery, there have been some areas even Neil Peart couldn’t conquer: “To be honest, I am not sure that Neil ever fully ‘got’ the jazz high-hat thing,” Peter Erskine, who took over as Peart’s trainer within the 2000s, wrote affectionately.)

Rush as a complete have been feeling some artistic exhaustion on their subsequent album, 1996’s Test for Echo, however Peart felt he’d carried out his finest enjoying thus far, due to a revamped sense of time. He additionally discovered a brand new method to make touring bearable, even pleasurable, touring from date thus far on his BMW motorbike. “I’m out in the real world every day,” he advised me, “seeing people at work and going about their daily life, and having little conversations in rest areas and gas stations and motels, and all the American life every day.” Five years would cross earlier than the band toured once more.

On August tenth, 1997, Peart and his spouse Jackie helped 19-year-old Selena pack up her automotive as she ready to drive to the University of Toronto to start her sophomore yr. Her anticipated arrival time got here and went with out a telephone name. A number of hours later, a police officer got here to Peart’s door. At Selena’s funeral, Peart advised his bandmates to contemplate him retired, and Lifeson and Lee assumed the band was over. Jackie was shattered, and inside months obtained a prognosis of metastatic most cancers. She responded “almost gratefully” to the information, Peart wrote. Jackie died in June 1998. She is buried subsequent to their daughter. 

Peart left every little thing behind, obtained on his motorbike and rode. He felt alienated from himself; at one level, he watched one among his outdated educational drum movies and felt like he was a distinct particular person. There was a part of him left, although, “a little baby soul,” and he did his finest to nurture it. There have been instances when he sought the “numb refuge of drugs and alcohol,” as he put it in his memoir of the interval, Ghost Rider. Midway by means of his journey, earlier than embarking on a run by means of Mexico, Peart broke out of his isolation for per week, spending a while in Los Angeles with Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan.

TIME STAND STILL: Rush in 1977. “Neil had a great smile,” says Lee.

Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

One of the few issues that made him chuckle throughout that interval was South Park, so Peart was happy when MacNaughtan launched him to Stone. “Andrew was like, ‘Neil’s coming to town,’ ” Stone remembers. “ ‘Let’s get wasted and hang out.’ I got some party materials and went up to the Hollywood Hills. Because of what happened, it was, ‘Don’t talk about girls. Don’t talk about children.’ So we talked about art and philosophy and rock & roll and travel. … But it was a guy who was just fucking sad.” 

Over the course of greater than a yr and 55,000 miles’ price of motorbike journeys, Peart started to heal. He ended up in Southern California for good, prepared to begin over. “When I first moved here it was remarkable, because my life was one suitcase, a bicycle, and a boom box,” he advised me. “All the possessions I had. I rented a little apartment by the Santa Monica Pier. And I joined the Y here. I would do yoga or the Y every day, ride around on my bicycle, come home and listen to my boom box, and it was great.” Through MacNaughtan, he met Carrie Nuttall, a gifted photographer, and fell in love. They married in 2000. Peart referred to as the band and advised them he was able to get again to work.

Rush have been as fashionable as they’d ever been by their fortieth anniversary in 2015, having been belatedly absorbed into the classic-rock and pop-culture canons. After many stylistic reinventions, they’d re-embraced their core method with what would turn into their final studio launch, the triumphant idea album Clockwork Angels, in 2012.

But Peart had once more grown reluctant to tour. He and Olivia, now 5, have been very shut, and through the band’s 2012-13 tour, she discovered his absences painful and disturbing. Peart relented solely as a result of Lifeson developed arthritis, and the guitarist apprehensive that it could be his final likelihood to play. “Realizing I was trapped,” Peart wrote, “I got back to my hotel that night and stomped around the room in a mighty rage and an attack of extreme Tourette’s.” After the tantrum subsided, he determined to comply with an adage of Freddie Gruber’s: “It is what it is. Deal with it.” 

As the tour went on, Lifeson began feeling higher. It was Peart who suffered. He stored up his motorbike routine, a 62-year-old man using a whole lot of miles a day, generally within the rain, earlier than enjoying three-hour concert events. He developed a painful an infection in one among his toes, amongst different points. “He could barely walk to the stage,” says Lifeson. “They got him a golf cart to drive him to the stage. And he played a three-hour show, at the intensity he played every single show. I mean, that was amazing.”

At the start of the tour, Peart was feeling good, and signaled to Danniels that he could be open to including extra reveals. His emotions modified alongside along with his bodily situation. “Partway through the second run,” says Danniels, “he made it clear to me, ‘I can’t do any more. I don’t want to do any more.’ And, you know, I was frustrated.” So have been Lee and Lifeson, who have been in the course of one among Rush’s biggest excursions, with a fan’s-dream set record that ran by means of the band’s catalog in reverse chronological order. 

MEAN, MEAN PRIDE: Peart poses with Lifeson and Lee in London circa 1978.

Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

“My relationship with him had been one of coaxing,” Danniels provides. “But even getting angry couldn’t move him. He wasn’t a racehorse anymore. He was a mule. The mule wasn’t going to move. … I eventually let go. I realized I was going to negatively affect my friendship with him.”

The band by no means actually spoke in regards to the significance of what was taking place at Rush’s remaining present, at a sold-out Forum in L.A. At least not aloud. “The conversation took place onstage,” says Lee, “all through the show, in our eyes.” Peart made it clear that one thing distinctive, and probably remaining, was taking place when he got here as much as the entrance of the stage along with his bandmates on the present’s conclusion. It was the primary time he had carried out so in 40 years. “That was a beautiful moment,” Lee says.

For all of the finality, there was at all times some hope that the band would discover some method to proceed. “Do I think Neil would have done something again?” says Danniels. “Yes. He would have one day. [Something] different, whether it was a residency in Vegas or whatever. I think, yes, before the illness. That’s what stopped this thing from ever coming back.”

The years of Peart’s sickness have been crammed with uncertainty. Early on, he was in remission for a yr earlier than the most cancers returned. “In a way, every time you said goodbye to him, you said goodbye,” says Lee. “Because you honestly didn’t know. Even when he was doing pretty well. It was three and a half years of really not knowing. The timeline kept moving. So when you said goodbye, it was always a giant hug.”

During one go to, Lifeson stayed in L.A. by himself for a number of days. “And when I left, I gave him a big hug and a kiss,” the guitarist says. “And he looked at me and said, ‘That says everything.’ And, oh, my God. And that, for me, was when [I said goodbye]. I saw him a couple times afterwards, but I can see him and feel that moment.”

The remaining time Lee and Lifeson noticed their bandmate, they have been in a position to have one final, wonderful boozy dinner with him and Nuttall. “We were laughing our heads off,” says Lifeson. “We were telling jokes and reminiscing about different gigs and tours and crew members and the kind of stuff we always did sitting around a dressing room or on a bus. And it just felt so natural and right and complete.”

Peart had a point of impairment because the illness progressed, however “really, right up to the end, he was in there,” says Perry. “He was absolutely in there, taking things in.” (A report after his dying that Peart was confined to a wheelchair and unable to talk was totally false, buddies stated.) He stored up his routine, heading to his man cave every weekday, seeing buddies there, even throwing himself a remaining celebration within the fall of 2019.

When Peart might now not drive, his buddies Michael Mosbach and Juan Lopez shuttled him there. “I’m just really grateful and proud,” says Nuttall, “that I was able to provide Neil with the ability to still do all those things he wanted to do, really up until the very end. But I couldn’t have done it without Juan and Michael.”

Peart by no means performed drums once more after Rush’s remaining present. But there was a drum package in his home. It belonged to Olivia, who was taking classes and significantly pursuing the instrument. Peart’s mother and father had allowed him to arrange his drums of their lounge, and he did the identical for Olivia. It stated every little thing about Peart that his daughter wasn’t shy about tackling the instrument within the shadow of his personal achievements. “Neil immediately said, ‘She has it,’ ” says Nuttall. “She did inherit what he had. And of course, that thrilled him. … He made a huge effort not to make her feel intimidated by him — he didn’t sit there and stare at her having her lesson. He would be out of sight, but he’d be listening.”

With Peart’s passing carefully adopted by a world disaster, it’s been a darkish and surreal yr for his buddies and household. In a world frozen in place, it’s been onerous to course of grief. “It feels like it wasn’t very long ago,” says Lee. There was extra drama within the Rush camp, too. Lifeson grew to become terribly unwell in March, and was hospitalized for a number of days and positioned on oxygen. He examined damaging for Covid-19 however constructive for the flu, although he did lose his sense of style and scent whereas he was sick. Lifeson has since absolutely recovered.

A deliberate personal Toronto memorial for Peart needed to be referred to as off, however there was a small dinner with the band and buddies in Los Angeles, and a proper memorial there hosted by his widow weeks later. “Carrie picked a beautiful place overlooking the Pacific,” says Perry. “It was a beautiful afternoon. It was a healing time for everyone. Carrie put together a wonderful slide show of pictures, going right back to when he was a boy.”

Some of Peart’s buddies — Scannell, Perry, Copeland, prose collaborator Kevin Anderson — spoke in entrance of an viewers that included his bandmates and different well-known drummers: Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, Tool’s Danny Carey. In Copeland’s speech, he famous that due to Peart, all the drummers in attendance shared the indignity of assembly followers who’d inform them, “You’re my second-favorite drummer!”

A FAREWELL TO KINGS: For the primary time, Peart took a bow along with his bandmates, at their remaining present, in 2015.

John Arrowsmith/Rush Archives

At the top, Olivia Peart, age 11, obtained up and talked about her dad. “She was wonderful,” Perry says. “She’s really Neil’s daughter, a really smart little girl.” 

Olivia and her mom are, in fact, nonetheless scuffling with the loss, compounded by pandemic-era isolation. The Canadian border has been largely closed for months, separating them from Peart’s prolonged household. “Our lives were turned upside down when Neil died,” says Nuttall, who spent Christmas alone along with her daughter. “And then eight weeks later we were alone at home together, and it’s been tough. … We both think about him every single day, and talk about him every single day, and miss him every day.” Through all of it, Olivia is constant her drum classes.

Since Peart’s passing, Lee and Lifeson have discovered little curiosity in choosing up their devices. “I love playing, and I never, ever wanted to stop,” says Lifeson, throughout an emotional joint video name with Lee. Lifeson was in his studio, the place almost a dozen gleaming guitars hung behind him. “And I thought, you know, ‘One day, when I’m just sitting around shitting my pants, I’ll still want to play guitar.’ And that’s kind of gone now. After he died, it just didn’t seem important. But I think it’ll come back.”

“For the longest time,” says Lee, “I didn’t have any heart to play. … I still feel there’s music in me and there’s music in Big Al, but there’s no hurry to do any of that.” 

Even as they mourn their pal, Lee and Lifeson are adjusting to the concept that Rush, too, is gone. “That’s finished, right? That’s over,” Lee says. “I still am very proud of what we did. I don’t know what I will do again in music. And I’m sure Al doesn’t, whether it’s together, apart, or whatever. But the music of Rush is always part of us. And I would never hesitate to play one of those songs in the right context. But at the same time, you have to give respect to what the three of us with Neil did together.”

After the ultimate Rush present, Peart caught across the venue, as an alternative of bolting off on his motorbike. He was, for as soon as, having a good time backstage. “He was ebullient,” Lee says. Neil Peart had completed his work, held on to his requirements, by no means betrayed his 16-year-old self. He was nonetheless enjoying at his peak.

“He felt like it was a job well done,” says Scannell, who frolicked with him that night time. “And who could deny that?”

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