Neil Peart Biography

Updated: 10/31/2015

Neil Ellwood Peart (pronounced "Peert" not "Pert"), born September 12, 1952, near Hagersville, Ontario, is the drummer and lyricist for the Canadian rock band Rush. Rush is the most successful band from Canada, having played together for over 40 years, and selling 27 million records in the U.S. and 40 million records worldwide.

Peart grew up during the rise of rock and roll and the decline of jazz, and both would influence his drumming style. While his initial inspiration to play drums came from watching The Gene Krupa Story on TV, it was the "second wave" British rock bands and their drummers, including Keith Moon (The Who), Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix), and Ginger Baker (Cream), who ignited a fire in him. His single-minded journey to become a professional musician would take him through the Niagara Peninsula's vibrant music scene and later London, England. But after 18 months of living abroad where he found "poverty and anononymity," he returned to St. Catharines, where he eventually landed the audition with Rush. Read more about Peart's early years. 

Over the years, Rush has developed their own style of progressive rock, weaving together heavy metal, art rock, reggae, new wave, pop, grunge, and classical styles with thoughtful lyrics. The result has been 20 diverse studio albums, 9 live albums, 10 video albums, successful tours, and a fiercely loyal fan base. Rush's latest studio album, Clockwork Angels (2012) is considered one of their best by both fans and critics.

Neil Peart during R30 tourAs a drummer, Peart is known for his large drum kits, creative and intricate parts and extensive drum solos that delight both drummers and non-drummers alike. He's won many reader's poll awards from Modern Drummer, including 12 consecutive "best recorded performance" awards. In 2013, he won the MVP award and Best Prog Drummer for Modern Drummer

Peart is has continued to learn new techniques and approaches to the drums, studying with jazz drummers Freddie Gruber and Peter Erskine. He's written that his goal was to become more of an improvisational drummer. In recent tours, he's left entire sections of his solo open for improvisation.

When not busy with Rush, Peart has recorded or performed with Vertical Horizon, the Buddy Rich Band, and others. In 2008, Peart returned to New York City for a Buddy Rich Memorial concert. In 2009, he also recorded a new version of "The Hockey Song." Since the 1990s, Peart has chronicled his development as a drummer in multiple instructional and documentary videos.

In addition to his job as a musician, Peart is a profile writer. He's written six non-fiction books, including The Masked Rider, Ghost Rider (2002), Traveling Music: The Soundtrack to My Life and Times (2004), Roadshow: Landscape With Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle (2006), Far & Away: A Prize Every Time (2011), and Far & Near: On Days Like These (2014). He's also written many articles for Modern Drummer and other magazines, and regularly posts updates to For the Clockwork Angels album, Neil Peart collaborated with writer and friend Kevin J. Anderson on a Clockwork Angels novel, which became a New York Times bestseller, and was later adapted into a comic series.

Peart lives in the Los Angels area with his wife Carrie Nuttall (married in 2000) and daughter Olivia (born in 2010). Before this time, Peart was married to Jackie Taylor for 22 years, and they had one daughter Selena. In August 1997, Selena died in a car accident, and then Jackie died a year later of cancer. Peart chronicled his story of loss and his recovery in his heart wrenching book, Ghost Rider.

Essential Rush recordings include: 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), Vapor Trails (2002), and Clockwork Angels (2012).

In 2015, Peart and Rush toured 34 North Amercian cities on the R40 Live tour, described as "last tour of this magnitude." Rush played to mostly sold-out audiences, bringing their fans on journey from the present to the past, with instruments and the stage devolving around them. Rush ended the show in a virtual high school gym, complete with rotating disco ball, back to where it started. Rush will release a video and CD of the show in November 2015.

Neil Peart has stated in his September 2015 blog that he's currently working on a new book about the tour.

In recent months it became apparent that my experiences on the R40 tour in 2015 were much too vast and deep to fit into a couple of website stories. Plus I had far too many scenic and narrative photographs to fit in my usual format here. It would have to be a book.

Trivia and facts about Neil Peart

  • He officially joined Rush on July 29, 1974.
  • In his spare time, Peart reads, rides BMW motorcycles, drives fast cars, snowshoes, birdwatches, and hikes.
  • His favorite drink after a concert or a long day on the road is The Macallan.
  • Peart's nicknames are "Pratt," "Bubba," and "The Professor."
  • His drum style is inspired by countless drummers, but he's mentioned Keith Moon of the Who as one of his most important early influences.
  • He's appeared in several films as himself, including I Love Your Man and Adventures of Power. He's even appeared in animated form in Aqua Teen Force Colon Movie for Theaters (2007).
  • In 1996, he became an Officer of The Order of Canada, the highest civilian decoration in Canada.
  • In 2012, he received the Governor General's Award for Performing Arts: Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Popular Music) along with his bandmates.
  • In 2013, after years of eligibility, Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the mere mention of Rush's name by Jann Wenner, Rush got a 2-minute standing ovation.
  • Peart has said that he's a "bleeding heart libertarian."
  • His website includes a section on cooking called "Bubbas Bar 'n' Grill," and includes recipes, cooking techniques, and even a forum.
  • During the Clockwork Angels tours, Peart fired t-shirts out of an air cannon at the beginning of the encore.