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Musicians mourn loss of ‘ambassador of Canadian rock music’

Jacob Phillips, Arts Reporter

Musician, writer, drummer, and lyricist Neil Peart was many things but to Canadians he was a part of one of the country’s greatest music exports, Rush.

Rush announced Peart died from brain cancer after battling it for three and a half years on Jan. 7. Musicians shared their condolences and talked about how great of a person and inspiration he was to them. Artists like The Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Kiss’ Gene Simmons, the Canadian rockers Trews and many others, paid tributes to Peart and his legacy in both Canadian music and rock ‘n’ roll.

Peart’s technical style and live performances required a lot of stamina due to their exacting nature, influenced aspiring drummers who saw or listened to him, including drummers in Humber’s music bachelor program like Oscar Evans. He’s a trumpet major who doubles on drums and said listening to Peart changed his playing style.

“When I was 10, I played the drums trying to sound like Keith Moon, and then I saw how Neil Peart played and I went, ‘oh s—t that looks really cool,’” Evans said.

Evans and many other drummers like him saw Peart as a music god who helped Rush become rock legends and selling 40 million records worldwide.

Oscar Evans, Humber music student, poses with Marko Kelso, head of Humber’s percussion department. Evans and Kelso discussed Peart’s influence on Canadian music history.

Mark Kelso, the head of the drumming department at Humber’s music bachelor program, described how Peart completed Rush and made them one of rock’s most influential bands.

“He set them (Rush) on their way and it’s hard to think of Rush without him and he was the lyricist of the band cause the other guys weren’t interested in writing lyrics,” Kelso said.

Peart’s lyrics were very philosophical and caused listeners to think very deeply about what was in the song and not just the usual generic rock song that was on the radio, he said.

Songs like Spirit of Radio, Limelight, YYZ, and Tom Sawyer that have become rock radio staples and classics contained catchy hooks and lyrics that buried deep into the listener’s mind.

Along with the Guess Who and Neal Young, Rush were one of the most important Canadian rock bands in Canada’s history, said Andrew Scott, Humber’s Associate Dean of Music and Fine Arts.

“They were really one of the first rock bands to not just be a Canadian success, but to have success in the United States, and then more broadly as ambassadors of this music and of Canadian rock music around the globe,” Scott said.

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