Remembering Neil Peart: a new book about the first decade of Rush looks at his legacy

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Rock music lost a giant this past January when Rush drummer Neil Peart died of brain cancer at the age of 67. An author is reappraising the legacy Peart left behind in a new book that looks back on the first decade of the band.

Martin Popoff has written roughly 85 books of rock criticism and Anthem: Rush in the `70s is the first in a series of three books about the iconic Toronto three-piece.

“The second one is called Limelight: Rush in the `80s and the third one is called Driven: Rush in the `90s and in quote marks ‘in the end,'” he explains.

Anthem takes the story just past the Hemispheres album in 1978.

Popoff recalls how Peart had all but given up his dreams of rock stardom when Rush tapped him to replace original drummer John Rutsey in 1974.

“He had that demoralizing time in London where he goes there and he’s just completely broke and he finds it so hard to get a gig and eventually gives up,” he says. “So, yeah, he goes back and he starts working for his dad again.”

LISTEN: Anthem

In fact, Peart was the parts manager at his father’s farm equipment store in St. Catharines, Ontario.

However, weeks before their first American tour, Rutsey quit the band and Peart was soon to drafted to take his place.

A pre-fame Neil Peart working at his father’s farm equipment business (Courtesy: ECW Press)

The Rush sound was more meat-and-potatoes before Peart arrived and it didn’t take long for him to put his stamp on the band. Fly By Night, the band’s second album, was his first with Rush.

“They become a much more note-dense progressive band, essentially inventing a new genre of music called progressive metal,” says Popoff. “You could almost say it’s like progressive rock with a distortion pedal on it, right?”

Fly By Night, Peart’s debut album with Rush (Courtesy: Anthem Entertainment)

He says the chemistry between Peart, and bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson was immediate from his initial audition.

“They just looked at each other and they just could not believe how good this guy was and basically they decided, like, this is going to change us and it totally did,” he says.

“[Peart] becomes their lyricist and he, over time, turns those guys into the renaissance men they became and all three of them were renaissance men in the end.”

Look for Anthem: Rush in the `70s from ECW Press. Signed copies are also available from the author’s website.

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