News of Rush drummer Neil Peart’s death, which was announced on Friday by the iconic Canadian band, has reverberated throughout the music world, with tributes coming in from artists around the globe.
Peart, who died at 67 of brain cancer, made a huge impact on Winnipeg musicians as well. In the wake of his passing, several spoke to Global News about how the legendary drummer influenced their musical careers.
Winnipeg drummer Brent Fitz — who is currently based in the U.S., where he backs up high-profile artists like Slash as well as playing in his own group, Toque — told 680 CJOB that Peart was an artist respected by his fellow drummers for decades.
“I’ve been reflecting all weekend since the news,” said Fitz.
“I’ve known as a fan, since I was a kid, how integral he was as the architect of music for Rush.
“His parts were so well-orchestrated and so well-executed. I think the awareness of Neil Peart as much more than a musician is going to be highlighted with the unfortunate loss of his passing.”
Fitz said he performs Rush covers Tom Sawyer and The Spirit of Radio with Toque and that those songs will have a special impact with the news of Peart’s death.
While Rush is known primarily in progressive rock circles, Peart — who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Rush in 2013 — has had a wide-ranging influence that reaches well beyond one genre.
Manitoba Country Music Award-winning drummer Josh Ayers said the news left him “gutted,” describing Peart as one of his biggest influences.
“To me, Neil was a drummer I gravitated towards at an early age,” he said.
“His precision, musicality and purpose were infectious. Although I don’t play music similar to Rush, Neil’s approach to the drums sticks with me to this day.”
The Rush drummer similarly impacted Winnipeg musicians in other genres, including Jaime Carrasco, best known for his jazz music as well as his work with Winnipeg rockers like The Leftists.
“After being self-taught for a couple of years, I decided to take some drum lessons, and my first drum teacher decided to teach me Rush’s Tom Sawyer. Upon hearing and learning that tune, I was hooked and became a fan of the band,” said Carrasco.
“Neil Peart influenced so many of us, perhaps more than any other drummer of the past 45 years.”
Sean Allum, drummer for the local power-pop group Duotang, said he wasn’t necessarily a Rush fan but that Peart had an outsized influence on everyone playing drums.
“I think every drummer was and is a fan of Neil Peart. He made drums more of an art form in rock, whereas that was usually just reserved for jazz drumming,” he said.
“From all the stories I’d heard from friends who had met him, he was a pretty good guy as well. I think both those reasons are why people are mourning the way they are.”