The Tragic Death Of Rush's John Rutsey

John Rutsey, a formative member of Canadian prog-rock band Rush, certainly stands out among classic rock drummers. The Toronto-based musician not only set the precedent for Rush's signature sound, but also wrote many of the lyrics for the band's debut album (sadly, per Music Times, Rutsey was dissatisfied with his work, and Lee hastily re-wrote lyrics during production). After six years with the band, Rutsey served as the first member to leave and, a few short years before the group retired in 2015, he was also the first to pass away.

Per Rock and Roll Paradise, in 1974, Rutsey quietly left the band after the release of their eponymous debut album due to vaguely-defined "health reasons." Diabetes 1 can often be tricky to get under control, with patients injecting themselves with expensive insulin and measuring blood sugar levels multiple times per day. Severe health issues like blindness, limb amputation and kidney failure can result over time, something Rutsey experienced firsthand with the disease. Although the former drummer remained active for the rest of his life — even amateur bodybuilding following his departure from Rush — the disease cost him his life.

Complications from a lifelong disease took his life

According to an obituary per Billboard at the time of the drummer's death in 2008, Rutsey died from "complications from his lifelong affliction with diabetes," later elaborated upon as a heart attack. His family hosted a private funeral for the former drummer, asking that donations be made in his memory to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Ontario. Rutsey was 55.

Following Rutsey's death, frontman Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson lamented on the passing of their friend and former bandmate: "Our memories of the early years of Rush when John was in the band are very fond to us. Those years spent in our teens dreaming of one day doing what we continue to do decades later are special. Although our paths diverged many years ago, we smile today, thinking back on those exciting times and remembering John's wonderful sense of humour and impeccable timing. He will be deeply missed by all he touched."