Neil Peart's 'retired drummer' comment about touring, says Rush's Geddy Lee

Being on the road takes a major toll on Rush drummer Neil Peart, which is why he's "retired" from lengthy tours, according to his Rush bandmate Geddy Lee.
Rush drummer Neil Peart, seen in Philadelphia during the prog rock trio's R40 Live: 40th anniversary tour in June, has only retired from lengthy tours, according to bandmate Geddy Lee. (Owen Sweeney/Associated Press)

Being on the road takes a major toll on Rush drummer Neil Peart, which is why he's "retired" from lengthy tours, according to bandmate Geddy Lee.

Lee moved to squash rumours of the influential prog-rock trio's demise after a music magazine published an essay Monday in which Peart said he was happy to be, as his young daughter described him, a "retired drummer."

"There's really nothing to say. I think Neil is just explaining his reasons for not wanting to tour, with the toll that it's taking on his body. That's all I would care to comment on it," Lee told Prog, a progressive rock magazine, on Tuesday.

"We'll get together eventually and chat about things. But in my view, there is certainly nothing surprising in what he said. Neil just feels that he has to explain with all the thousands of people asking, 'Why no more tours?' He needs to explain his side of it."

Currently in U.K. promoting the band's concert film and album R40 Live, which was shot during the band's recently concluded 40th anniversary tour, Lee also noted that he felt Peart's quote was taken out of context.

"That's their job. Talking about something when there's nothing to talk about," he said.

Organizers had described the 34-city tour slate as "not-to-be-missed concerts" that would "most likely be their last major tour of this magnitude."

Slowing down

In his essay for Drumhead Magazine, Hamilton-born, California-based Peart wrote that his young daughter Olivia, born in 2009, "has been introducing me to new friends at school as 'My dad — he's a retired drummer.' True to say — funny to hear. And it does not pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to … take yourself out of the game."

Even before the band announced this past summer's tour, Peart mused about how guilty he felt about leaving his family for long stints. 

"I've been doing this for 40 years — I know how to compartmentalize, and I can stand missing [my daughter], but I can't stand her missing me and it's painful and impossible to understand for her. How can a small child process that? And there's the guilt that comes with that — you feel guilty about it, of course. I'm causing pain," he told Prog magazine in early 2015. 

Family tragedy and recovery

On Aug. 10, 1997, Peart's first daughter and then only child, 19-year-old Selena Taylor, was killed in a single-car accident while driving to university in Toronto. Just months later, Peart's common-law wife, Jackie, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and later died.

Peart told his fellow Rush bandmates on the day of his daughter's funeral they should "consider me retired."

He would later go on a 14-month motorcycle trip across North America, through Mexico to Belize and back, chronicling the journey in his bookGhost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, before rejoining the band.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Rush members, from left, Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee in 2013. (Danny Moloshok/Invision/The Associated Press/The Canadian Press)

No touring doesn't mean no Rush: Lee

"It's just getting to the point, no matter how much we love doing it, that it's much more demanding and much more difficult," band mate Alex Lifeson noted to the Canadian Press earlier this year.

"I've always hated the idea of being one of those guys who's just up there, old and barely able to move — just doing it for fear of not doing it, or not making an extra buck or whatever."

However, Lee has said repeatedly that ending large-scale tours doesn't mean Rush is finished.

"It doesn't mean we don't want to work together still, it doesn't mean we won't do another creative project, and I've got ideas for shows we could do that don't involve a tour," he told Rolling Stone, which featured the band on its cover in June.

The prog rock trio has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, earned widespread respect and influenced scores of musicians, but has only recently earned significant recognition from the industry.

Rush was only inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — after being eligible since the 1990s and following years of petitions and protests by devotees — in 2013, almost a decade after the band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.


Jessica Wong

Senior digital writer

Based in Toronto, Jessica Wong covers Canadian education stories for CBC News. She previously covered arts and entertainment news, both national and international, and has been a digital journalist for CBC since 2001. You can reach her at Jessica.Wong@cbc.ca.


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