Childhood & Early Life
Neil Peart was born on September 12, 1952 to Glen and Betty Peart, and lived in the family’s farm in Hagersville near Hamilton. The first of four children, His siblings were Danny, Judy and Nancy.
The family moved to St. Catharines when Peart was two, and then to the Port Dalhousie area of the town in 1956. He attended Gracefield School, and later Lakeport Secondary School.
He listened to pop music on his transistor radio. He took piano lessons, but seeing his penchant for drumming on various objects, his parents bought him a drum kit for his 14th birthday.
He took lessons from Don George at the Peninsula Conservatory of Music. He debuted at the school’s Christmas pageant in St. Johns Anglican Church Hall in Port Dalhousie.
He appeared with his first group, The Eternal Triangle, at Lakeport High School. The performance contained an original number titled “LSD Forever”. He performed his first solo at the show.
Peart got a job in Port Dalhousie, and worked on the Bubble Game and Ball Toss, but was terminated. He played in local bands such as Mumblin’ Sumpthin’, the Majority, and JR Flood.
Career & Later Life
At eighteen, Peart travelled to London, England. He played in several bands, and occasionally received session work. He sold trinkets to tourists at The Great Frog on Carnaby Street to support himself.
During his stay in London he read novels of objectivist Ayn Rand, whose writings had a significant philosophical influence on him. Her novel “Anthem” influenced his “Fly by Night” and “2112”.
He returned to Canada disillusioned by his lack of progress in the music business. He worked for his father at Dalziel Equipment in St. Catharines. Thereafter, he joined the band ‘Hush’ to play drums.
He auditioned for the Toronto-based band Rush. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson who oversaw the audition accepted Peart’s style of drumming. He officially joined the band on July 29, 1974.
On his first outing with the band, he opened for Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann in front of over 11,000 people at the Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 14, 1974.
He became the band’s main lyricist. They began to tour extensively. Their first recording in 1975, “Fly by Night”, was fairly successful, and won the Juno Award for most promising new act.
Their “Caress of Steel” was a failure with much negative reception aimed at “The Fountain of Lamneth”. Peart then wrote “2112” on their breakthrough album of the same name in 1976.
When touring Northern Europe, Rush recorded the 1977 album, “A Farewell to Kings” in Rockfield Studios in Wales. The next year their follow-up album “Hemispheres” was also recorded there.
In the albums “Hold Your Fire”, “Presto”, “Roll the Bones”, and “Counterparts” from 1987 to 1993, Peart explored diverse lyrical motifs, and also addressed the topic of love and relationships.
In 1992, Peart accepted an invitation to play at the Buddy Rich Memorial Scholarship Concert in New York City. He performed with the Buddy Rich Big Band.
He decided to produce and play on two Buddy Rich tribute albums titled “Burning for Buddy: A Tribute to the Music of Buddy Rich” in 1994, and again three years later.
By 2005, he had written 3 books namely “The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa”, “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road”, and “Traveling Music: Playing Back the Soundtrack to My Life and Times”.
Peart toured the Americas and Europe on the Time Machine Tour with Rush. Following the tour, the band released their studio album, “Clockwork Angels” on June 12, 2012.
In the 1980 album, “Permanent Waves”, Peart stopped using fantasy literature or ancient mythology in his writing. His lyrics began to revolve around social, emotional and humanitarian issues, using metaphors and symbolic representation.
The 1981 “Moving Pictures” portrayed his interest in mythological figures, which he placed in a modern reality-based context. The alum contained their most popular song “Tom Sawyer”, and “Limelight” about popularity, and its pressures.
He returned from his self-imposed sabbatical, and recorded the 2002 album “Vapor Trails” wherein Peart spoke about his personal issues, and humanitarian topics, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks as in “Peaceable Kingdom”.
Personal Life & Legacy
Peart’s daughter, 19-year-old Selena Taylor, was killed in a single-car accident on August 10, 1997. His common-law wife of 22 years, Jacqueline Taylor, succumbed to cancer 10 months later.
He met photographer Carrie Nuttall in Los Angeles. They married on September 9, 2000. Their daughter Olivia Louise Peart was born nine years later.
Neil Peart died from brain cancer, on January 7, 2020, in Santa Monica, California. THe announcement regarding his death was made by his family on January 10.