Stewart Copeland Remembers Neil Peart: "A Really Good Friend and a Unique Character"

The Police drummer recalls his time with Rush's beatkeeper in a new interview

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished May 15, 2020

Long after some one-sided feuding in their early years, Rush's Neil Peart and Stewart Copeland of the Police became great friends — though being drummers in trios that, at one point or another, drew influence from reggae surely helped. Now, Copeland has reflected on his time with the late drumming icon in a new interview.

Speaking with Rolling Stone, Copeland called Peart "a really good friend and a unique character," noting that he would miss hanging out at each other's home studios.

"When he first passed, I was pleased for him, because [his illness] was a two-to-three-year process," Copeland recalled. "At one point during it, he said, 'Look, I'm a year past my sell-by date. I'm still here.' And then another year went by. So when he passed, my first thought was, he had an incredible life. What a great way to go out. He saw his train coming and he got a first-class seat. That's him."

Copeland also spoke about the last time he saw Rush's drummer and primary lyricist, reflecting on some birthday celebrations months before Peart's passing.

"He still had his dignity. You could tell he was appreciating to still be here, but you could see it was beginning to take its toll," he explained. "It went from not great to really bad very quickly. It was a gradual, gradual impairment. Socially, he was still Neil. He was still the Doctor, still the Professor. Still Neptune on high! But he said, 'I'm not getting on my motorcycles again and I'm not getting on a drum set anytime again.' And those were disappointments to him, but he was still glad to be here."

Of Copeland's favourite memories with Peart, he reflected on many memorable jam sessions at his home studio dubbed "Sacred Grove." A few of those basement gatherings were documented and shared online (see below), and featured the two storied timekeepers jamming with Tool's Danny Carey, Les Claypool and more. 

Copeland was also asked about the public's perception of Peart as a quiet and serious person. While he admitted that the late drummer was "very dry, very deadpan," he shared, "One of the stranger quirks, which any Rush fan probably knows, or anyone who has loved Neil, [is that] he cannot take compliments. He cannot take adulation. It just touches a button. I should be speaking in past tense. He had, I suppose, a dour exterior, but that craggy, dour exterior just made his wit more piercing. If you'll forgive the pun."

You can read Copeland's entire interview here. Peart passed away in January following a battle with brain cancer. He was 67.

Rush are due to release an anniversary edition of Permanent Waves this month.

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