A spokesperson for the Peart family, Elliott Mintz, confirmed that Peart died of brain cancer in Santa Monica, Calif., on Jan. 7.
Rush paid tribute to their “friend, soul brother and bandmate of over 45 years” in a statement.
According to the band, Peart had been battling glioblastoma for three and a half years before his death — the same type of brain cancer that claimed the life of Gord Downie.
“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,” Rush said.
Widely considered one of the greatest drummers to ever hit the stage, Peart was a part of Rush since 1974, and was the band’s primary lyricist. He replaced original drummer John Rutsey.
Born Neil Ellwood Peart in Hamilton, Ont. in 1952 and raised in nearby St. Catharines, he caught the music bug — specifically percussion — when he hit his teenage years.
The Shift with Drex listeners remember Neil Peart. LISTEN:
“Rhythm especially seemed to affect me, in a physical way, and soon I was tapping all the time — on tables, knees, and with a pair of chopsticks on baby sister Nancy’s playpen,” he wrote in the St. Catharines Standard in 1994. “At first Mom and Dad probably thought I had some kind of nervous affliction, but they decided to try occupational therapy — for my thirteenth birthday, they got me drum lessons. This changed everything.”
Rush has enjoyed considerable success in both the U.S. and Canada. Several of their albums — 2112, Moving Pictures, All the World’s a Stage and Exit … Stage Left — have sold more than one million copies each in the U.S. alone.
In 1997, Peart, along with bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, became the first rock musicians to be inducted into the Order of Canada.
They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
Upon news of Peart’s passing, social media was filled with condolences from the world of music.
Peart is survived by his wife Carrie and his daughter, Olivia. As of this writing, no funeral arrangements have been announced.
— With files from The Canadian Press