Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for rock band Rush, dies at 67

Peart was considered one of the most gifted and electrifying drummers in pop music history.

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By Daniel Arkin and Diana Dasrath

Neil Peart, the prodigiously talented drummer and eclectic primary lyricist for the Canadian rock band Rush, died Tuesday in Santa Monica, California, according to a family spokesman.

He was 67.

The cause of death was brain cancer, which he had been battling quietly for three years, according to his spokesman, Elliot Mintz.

He was considered one of the most gifted and electrifying drummers in pop music history, a virtuosic stylist and technical maestro who inspired a cult following with his dazzling fusions of hard rock and jazz.

Peart, who joined Rush in 1974 and helped catapult the group to fame, was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1983, when he was in his late 30s. The popular trio included Geddy Lee on vocals, keyboards and bass, and Alex Lifeson on guitars.

Neil Peart, right, with Rush bandmates guitarist Alex Lifeson, left, and bassist Geddy Lee in 1977.Fin Costello / Redferns

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"It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three-and-half-year battle with brain cancer," the band said in a joint statement on Twitter.

"Rest in peace, brother," the statement added.

Peart was widely celebrated for writing vivid, heady lyrics heavily influenced by science fiction, philosophy and classic literature. He also infused the band's most famous tracks, including "Freewill" and "Tom Sawyer," with a defiantly individualistic streak that some characterized as politically libertarian.

In tributes on Twitter, other rock music luminaries — including Max Weinberg, the longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys — expressed their condolences and praised Peart as a once-in-a-generation talent.

"Drumming legend as we all know," Weinberg said, "but a truly kind man."

Peart was born Sept. 12, 1952, and took up drumming as a teenager. "I got a pair of sticks, a practice pad and lessons," he told an interviewer in 2005.

He drew elements of his technique from the hard-driving rock of The Who and Led Zeppelin, as well as the zesty swing of jazz and big-band music, ultimately perfecting an intricately layered but rigorously precise style all his own.

Peart was devastated by two tragedies in the late 1990s: his first daughter, Selena Taylor, died in a car accident near Ontario in 1997, and his common-law wife of 23 years, Jacqueline Taylor, died of cancer in June 1998.

The celebrated drummer announced his retirement from professional music in late 2015, after the conclusion of the R40 Live Tour. "It does pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to ... take yourself out of the game," he told Drumhead Magazine.

Peart is survived by his wife, Carrie, and their daughter, Olivia Louise Peart. Mintz said funeral plans were pending.