How Neil Peart Ended Up Writing Lyrics For Rush

In a band, drummers are responsible for maintaining the tempo, much like point guards and quarterbacks respectively dictate the flow of the offense in basketball and football. As such, it can be said that a band can only be as good as its drummer. However, there's also the argument that drummers often don't get the respect they deserve, especially when it comes to the more glamorous and/or creative aspects of playing in a band. Sure, you've got people like Phil Collins of Genesis and Don Henley of the Eagles who were triple threats as lead vocalists, drummers, and songwriters. But then again, Ringo Starr had to wait until 1968 before getting his first solo songwriting credit on a Beatles song — the "White Album" deep cut "Don't Pass Me By," as noted by Songfacts

That brings us to another notable example of a drummer who did far more than just keep time. Not only was the late Neil Peart a virtuoso musician who was capable of complex and innovative drum fills and solos; he was also Rush's primary lyricist almost from the time he joined the group in 1974. It was a big decision for the power trio to make, and it obviously worked out, as Peart's arrival coincided with Rush's ascendance to the top of the prog-rock heap. But what influenced vocalist-bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson to delegate such an important duty to their new bandmate?

Peart was given lyric-writing duties because he was well-read

As explained by Ultimate Classic Rock, Neil Peart joined Rush at a time when they were under pressure to "deliver new music quickly." Not helping was the fact that the band went on tour soon after Peart replaced original drummer John Rutsey, thus leaving them with little to no time to get acclimated to each other in a more relaxed environment. Fortunately, it didn't take long for Peart to familiarize himself with Rush's songs; this convinced his bandmates that it was time to try something new in terms of their approach to songwriting. 

When Rush entered the studio to record what would become their sophomore release, 1975's "Fly By Night," they opted to have Peart handle lyric-writing duties because he was a well-read individual, though as Geddy Lee admitted, it wasn't an easy choice at first. "It wasn't his idea to write the lyrics," he recalled. "Alex [Lifeson] and I sort of said, 'Make him do it. He reads a lot of books. Let him do it.'"

According to Lee, Rush's new creative direction with Peart as the main lyricist was mostly well-received, though there were some fans who were "disturbed" by how much the trio had changed musically from their self-titled debut to "Fly By Night." However, the making of the latter album proved to be instrumental in improving Rush's chemistry as a band, while establishing Peart as a perfect fit alongside Lee and Lifeson, so much so that this three-man lineup remained in place until Rush disbanded in 2018.