British Columbia

'They were ours': Rush documentary maker, fans pay tribute to Neil Peart

The band announced Friday that their drummer and lyricist died Tuesday from brain cancer at the age of 67.

The drummer and lyricist for Canadian rock band Rush died this week from brain cancer

Musician Neil Peart of the band Rush performs at the Nokia Theatre on May 6, 2008, in Los Angeles, Calif. Peart passed away on Jan. 7, 2020 after a battle with brain cancer. (Jesse Grant/Getty Images)

When filmmaker Sam Dunn was a teenager and aspiring bass player growing up in Victoria, B.C., he gravitated toward the music of Canadian prog rock band Rush.

"I spent hours in my bedroom, you know slaving away, trying to learn all those parts," Dunn told Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On The Coast. 

Years later, when Dunn went on to co-direct the definitive documentary on the band — Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage — he felt lucky to spend time with the notoriously private Neil Peart, who died Tuesday after a prolonged battle with brain cancer. 

"Neil wasn't someone that gave a lot of interviews," Dunn said. "[But] they trusted us to tell their story."

Peart, along with Geddy Lee on keys and bass and Alex Lifeson on guitar, took Rush to dazzling success — Grammy Award nominations, Juno Awards, an induction the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — without ever compromising their complex and intricate musicianship.

"They loved the music that they played. They really did not compromise on the music that they played," Dunn said. 

"They did things that no other band had really done, say that since the days of Yes and Genesis and King Crimson. But of course the difference was they were ours. They were Canadian." 

Watch this iconic drum solo by Neil Peart:

Neil Peart, the late drummer for Canadian rock band Rush, performs a drum solo. 0:45

Ash Pearson, drummer with Three Inches of Blood, a Vancouver-based heavy metal band that disbanded in 2015, says his whole band counted themselves as Rush superfans. 

While Pearson was naturally in awe of Peart's talent on the drums, Peart's writing — he was the band's primary lyricist — was equally inspiring. 

Drummer Ash Pearson with a set of drumsticks favoured by Neil Peart — Pro Mark 747. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"He got me excited about literature and reading books that I otherwise might not have been exposed to," Pearson said.

"I thought that if he can take his thoughts and feelings and put that onto pen and paper, then, you know, maybe so could I."

Pearson, who has collected many treasures associated with the band— including their vinyl records, a set of stamps honouring the band, and Peart's non-fiction writing — says while he is sad Peart is gone, he is confident his legacy will live on.

A glimpse at drummer Ash Pearson's collection of Rush memorabilia. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"It really goes to show when you look back and encapsulate a life with all of [this memorabilia], it's very beautiful how it's all going to outlive him and has outlived him and will go on to influence people," Pearson said. 

"We're all destined to go someday but if you wish, you could leave an indelible effect on people."

About the Author

Roshini Nair is a writer for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at roshini.nair@cbc.ca.

With files from On The Coast

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