The late Rush drummer Neil Peart is remembered among the pantheon of drumming greats, and for some, he’s the best to ever pick up a pair of sticks. When he first became obsessed with the instrument as a teenager, there was one influential figure who he tried to emulate and called a “revolutionary” talent.
Although Peart wasn’t a founding member of Rush, his arrival four months after the release of their eponymous debut album completely changed the group’s trajectory and lifted them exponentially. Their line-up never altered from that point, and for over 40 years, they made sweet magic together with the drummer acting as their lynchpin.
Perhaps Peart’s influence was best epitomised by Dave Grohl, who once quipped: “An inspiration to millions with an unmistakable sound who spawned generations of musicians (like myself) to pick up two sticks and chase a dream. A kind, thoughtful, brilliant man who ruled our radios and turntables not only with his drumming but also his beautiful words.”
He admired others growing up similarly to how Grohl looked up to him, and a selection of artists made Peart feel inspired to step behind a drumkit. However, surprisingly, his first introduction to musical training was the piano, but it wasn’t to his acquired taste.
When he was 14, Peart received his first set of drums from his family, and one of the names that he tried to style himself upon was Cream’s Ginger Baker, who he held responsible for single-handedly reinventing the art form.
In a conversation with Rolling Stone in 2009, Peart sang the praises of Baker and said: “His playing was revolutionary, extrovert, primal, and inventive. He set the bar for what rock drumming could be. I certainly emulated Ginger’s approaches to rhythm — his hard, flat, percussive sound was very innovative. Everyone who came after built on that foundation. Every rock drummer since has been influenced in some way by Ginger — even if they don’t know it.”
Peart also appeared in the 2012 documentary Beware Of Mister Baker, which was directed by Jay Bulger. Peart echoed his previous sentiment in the film and heralded Baker as a trailblazer who was “at the forefront of a complete revolution of rock.”
He continued: “It is hard to find fault with the notion he was the pioneer of a rock drummer. There was no context for him, there was no archetype. Ginger Baker’s most notable achievement that should be recognised is the first rock drum solo. And me as a 15-year-old kid at the time was, ‘Yeah, yeah – that’s the rock drummer I want to be'”.
As a teenager, Peart found an idol in Ginger Baker, who provided him with a picture of greatness to strive towards. For many people, his talent even went on to eclipse that of his hero, but it wouldn’t have been possible if Baker didn’t lay down the foundations which allowed Peart to conquer.