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Neil Peart is one of the most celebrated rock drummers and lyricists of our times. His innovative signature playing styles have become phenomenal, and a living force for his rock band Rush. Together with other members of Rush, they have evolved the convectional rock to Progressive Rock, which takes ingredients from heavy metal, art rock, reggae, new wave, pop, grunge, and classical styles.
Peart was born Cornelius Ellwood Peart on September 12, 1952, near Hagersville, Ontario, Canada. He grew up in Port Dalhousie, doing odd jobs to support him self. His life-long dream however, was to become a professional musician. His parents always encouraged him to pursue his dreams. At 13, they enrolled him for drum lessons and bought him a rubber practicing pad and a pair of drum sticks. They also promised him a drum kit if he stuck to his lessons for a year. One year later, Peart was still a faithful student and therefore he received his first drum kit as promised. This was the launching pad for a prodigy who would become a world’s famed rock sensation.
Peart started playing with different local bands in Ontario but his ambitions could not be contained there. At 18, he dropped from high school and left for England to pursue his music dream. The trip unfortunately bore no fruit, but he learnt a thing or two on how to stand firm amid failures. He eventually returned to Canada and joined the Toronto based rock band, Rush.
It didn’t take long for Peart to prove Lifeson wrong. Two weeks after joining the group, they embarked on their first US tour. With his ability to create intricate drum solo parts and hold his audiences spell bound, Rush learnt what an asset they had in Peart. He was not only a drummer but also lyricist. His first recording with the group was Fly by night, which immediately won the Juno award for most promising new act. Though their next release, Careless of Steel, didn’t do well and had negative reviews, the group was determined to redeem themselves. The redeemer was Peart, whose song 2112 became a major breakthrough the group needed. The song was included in the album by the same name. Following this success, the group went on a supporting tour that culminated in a three night performance at Massey Hall in Toronto. The venue was significant to Peart since he had always dreamed of performing there.
Peart had another taste of England when he returned with the group for their Northern European Tour. After the tour, the band spent more time in UK to record their next album, A farewell to the Kings. They also recorded the follow up album, Hemispheres, in Wales. The following years were extremely busy and hectic for the group. They recorded five studio albums in four years and did as many as 300 gigs a year. That meant they had no time for themselves and families. Peart said that he felt like his time with the band was ‘a long dark tunnel.’
Life took a painful twist when he lost his daughter and only child Selena in a tragic road accident in 1996. The same year his wife of 22 years, Jackie Taylor, died of cancer. Following this tragedy, the group took a five years hiatus. During this time, Peart wrote ‘Ghost Rider: Travels on a healing Road.’ In September 2000, Neil married Los Angeles photographer Carrie Nuttall. With this, Peart was more rejuvenated and went back to work. Soon Rush produced their widely acclaimed album "Vapor Trails", which was their 17th studio album.
In 2002, Rush took a highly anticipated tour of United States, Canada and Mexico. This tour was crowned in Brazil where they performed in front of 125,000 adoring fans for three nights. This performance was recorded on DVD entitled Rush in Rio, that was certified double-platinum, after just a few weeks on sale. Pearts performance on this tour has been regarded as his best ever and showcased his supremacy as drummer.
Rush is the most successful band from Canada and the third in the world as far as all time sales are concerned behind Rolling Stones and the Beatles. They have released over 20 albums and sold more than 24.5 million records in U.S. alone. Some of their most successful albums are Fly by Night (1974), 2112 (1976), Permanent Waves (1980), Moving Pictures (1981), Exit... Stage Left (1982), Grace Under Pressure (1984), Power Windows (1985), Roll the Bones (1991), Counterparts (1993), and Vapor Trails (2002).
Peart has also authored four books, The Masked Rider, Ghost Rider, Traveling Music: The Soundtrack to My Life and Times, and Roadshow : Landscape With Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle. Ghost Rider was nominated for a Canadian Literary award in 2003. In 1996, Peart became an Officer of The Order of Canada, the highest civilian decoration in Canada. He now lives in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife, Carrie Nuttall.