Very very interesting bios for all three of the Rush band members, every single one of them has got his own story very much out of the ordinary, but the one that moved me greatly is Neil Peart’s, go on and read, life is sometimes so incredibely cruel. Kudos to him for returning to and touring with this great band.
Geddy Lee was born Gary Lee Weinrib on July 29, 1953 in Willowdale, Toronto. Lee’s stage name, Geddy, was inspired by his mother’s heavily-accented pronunciation of his given first name, Gary, and it later became his highschool nickname before he adopted it as his stage name. Lee’s parents were Jewish refugees from Poland who had been survivors of Nazi concentration camps Dachau and Bergen-Belsen during World War II. In 2004, Canadian Jewish News featured Lee’s reflections on his mother’s experiences as a refugee, and of his own Jewish heritage. Lee married Nancy Young in 1976. They have a son named Julian and a daughter named Kyla Avril.
Lifeson was born Alexandar Zivojinovich in Fernie, British Columbia to Serbian immigrants, Nenad and Milka Zivojinovich (from Serbian: Живојиновић, Živojinović), and raised in Toronto, Ontario. His assumed stage name of “Lifeson” is a semi-literal translation of the name “Zivojinovich”, meaning “son of life”. His first exposure to formal music training came in the form of the viola which he renounced for the guitar at the age of 12. His first guitar was a Christmas gift from his father, a six-string Kent classical acoustic which was later upgraded to an electric Japanese model. During adolescence, Lifeson was primarily influenced by Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Pete Townshend. Lifeson was primarily a self-taught guitarist with the only formal instruction coming from a high school friend in 1971 who taught classical guitar lessons. This training lasted for roughly a year and a half. In 1963, Lifeson met future Rush drummer John Rutsey in school. Both interested in music, they decided to form a band.
Lifeson eventually married his girlfriend Charlene and currently has two sons, Justin and Adrian.
Neil Peart was born on his family’s farm in Hagersville, on the outskirts of Hamilton. The first child of four, his brother Danny and sisters Judy and Nancy were born after the family moved to St. Catharines when Peart was two. At this time his father became parts manager for Dalziel Equipment, a farm machinery supplier. In 1956 the family moved to the Port Dalhousie area of the town. Peart attended Gracefield School, and describes his childhood as happy and says he experienced a warm family life. By early adolescence he became interested in music and acquired a transistor radio, which he would use to tune into pop music stations broadcasting from Toronto, Hamilton, Welland and Buffalo.
His first exposure to musical training came in the form of piano lessons, which he later said in his instructional video A Work in Progress did not have much impact on him. He had a penchant for drumming on various objects around the house with a pair of chopsticks, so for his 13th birthday, his parents bought him a pair of drum sticks, a practice pad and some lessons, with the promise that if he stuck with it for a year, they would buy him a kit.
His parents bought him a drum kit for his fourteenth birthday and he began taking lessons from Don George at the Peninsula Conservatory of Music. His stage debut took place that year at the school’s Christmas pageant in St. Johns Anglican Church Hall in Port Dalhousie. His next appearance was at Lakeport High School with his first group, The Eternal Triangle. This performance contained an original number entitled “LSD forever.” At this show he performed his first solo which garnered praise from fellow students.
Peart got a job in Lakeside Park, a fairground on the shores of Lake Ontario, which later inspired a song of the same name on the Rush album Caress of Steel. He worked on the Bubble Game and Ball Toss, but his tendency to take it easy when business was slack resulted in his termination. By his late teens, Peart had played in local bands such as Mumblin’ Sumpthin’, the Majority, and JR Flood. These bands practiced in basement recreation rooms and garages and played church halls, high schools and roller rinks in towns across Southern Ontario such as Mitchell, Seaforth, Elmira and Timmins. Tuesday nights were filled with jam sessions at the Niagara Theatre Centre.
Family tragedy & continuing on
Soon after the culmination of Rush’s Test For Echo Tour on July 4, 1997, Peart’s daughter and only child, 19-year-old Selena Taylor, was killed in a single-car accident on the 401 highway near the town of Brighton, Ontario on August 10. His common-law wife of 22 years, Jacqueline Taylor, succumbed to cancer only 10 months later on June 20, 1998. Peart, however, maintains that her death was the result of a “broken heart” and called it “a slow suicide by apathy. She just didn’t care.”
In his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, Peart writes of how he had told his bandmates at Selena’s funeral, “consider me retired.” Peart took a hiatus to mourn and reflect, during which time he traveled extensively throughout North America on his BMW motorcycle, covering 88,000 km (55,000 miles). After his journey ended, Peart decided to return to the band. Peart wrote Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road as a chronicle of his geographical and emotional journey.
While Peart was visiting long-time Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan in Los Angeles, MacNaughtan introduced Peart to his future wife, photographer Carrie Nuttall. They married on September 9, 2000.
In early 2001, Peart announced to his bandmates that he was ready to return to recording and performing. The product of the band’s return was the 2002 album Vapor Trails. At the start of the ensuing tour in support of the album, it was decided amongst the band members that Peart would not take part in the daily grind of press interviews and “Meet and Greet” sessions upon their arrival in a new city that typically monopolise a touring band’s daily schedule. While Peart has always shied away from these types of in-person encounters, it was decided that having to needlessly expose him to an endless stream of questions about the tragic events of his life was quite unnecessary.
Since the release of Vapor Trails and reuniting with his fellow band mates, Peart has returned to work as a full-time musician. Rush has since released a cover EP, Feedback in June 2004 and their 18th studio album Snakes & Arrows in May 2007, which were supported by three additional tours in 2004, 2007, and 2008 respectively.