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Why is the Port Dalhousie Pavilion called Neil Peart?

an empty park bench next to a building

When asked what the new $1.8 million pavilion was to be called, residents of Port Dalhousie were asked to submit a name first. Out of this survey, 2 came out, Neil Peart and Lakeside Park Pavilion. With over 81% of the votes, the Neil Peart name was almost unanimous. And this is not surprising for the celebrity of the city.

Neil Peart was the drummer of the Canadian Rock group Rush from 1974 until 2015 when he officially retired due of health issues. Rush is a famous Rock n’ Roll group. The band distinguishes itself  for his complex and deep songs taking inspiration from science fiction, fantasy and even philosophy which embark each listener into a deep reflection about its own life.

The group Rush started in Toronto in 1968 but Neil Peart applied for the drummer position only when their original drummer quit after a few years.

During a career of over 40 years, they released 19 albums together with 10 exceeding a million copies and selling over 40 millions albums worldwide.

Some of their most successful songs are “Working Man”, “Stick It Out”, “Dreamline”, “Test For Echo” and “Show Don’t Tell”.

Neil Peart sitting on a motorcycle

Neil spent all his childhood of Port Dalhousie. He was born near Hamilton in a farm in 1952 but his parents moved here when he was 2. The oldest of a family of 4, he spent all his youth in Port Dalhousie and St Catharines.

Not particularly gifted at school or in sports, he became obsessed with drumming at an early age and would spend all his time and money into his hobby. Possessed by rhythm, he would drum on anything he could find until his parents finally gave up and bought him a set of drums.

But Neil’s fortune didn’t happen overnight. Having difficulties making a career out of his passion in Canada, he decided to move to England at 18 to find better opportunities. Working in a jewelery during the day and playing drums at night and weekend, his move to the UK didn’t go as well and predicted. Dejected, he decided to move back to Canada a year later and got a job in his dad’s company.

This is at this time, that a friend of his told him that Rush was looking for a new drummer and that he should seriously consider applying for the position. The audition was a complete disaster according to Neil but they still gave it a try, 2 weeks before a main concert in the USA.

The friendship was almost immediate though, the 3 men shared instantly a similar sense of humor and the same in books and music.

Neil was the drummer, but elevated his position to redefine the drumming worldwide with incredible innovations. Each Rush concert features a solo from Neil who amazed every single spectator. His set consisted of over 40 different drums arranged 360 degrees around him. Called “The Professor” he is considered the most talented drummer in recent years and one of the three best drummers of all time.

He was so good that he was awarded a position in the Modern Drummer Readers Poll of Fame in 1983, the youngest person to receive this distinction, he was 31.

But like many amazing artists, he had many different skills, and his influences from poetry and his passion for literature transpired into its style.

Originally reluctant to even apply for the job, Neil rapidly took his marks in the band and became the lyricist for the group. Neil’s texts were eclectic, talking about world issues at social, emotional and humanitarian levels.

Neil was also a great writer and ended writing 7 non-fictional books about his travel and personal life.

Life was tough on Neil and tragedy hit him dramatically in 1998 when his only daughter, 19, got killed in a car accident. His wife, saddened and hopeless died 10 months later of cancer.

These terrible events impacted Neil deeply and he decided to start a motorbike journey across North America that took him on over 80.000km to clear up his mind and figure out what he was going to do with his life.

Great writer, he relates his trip through “Ghost Writer” , a narrative journey about how he rebuilt himself emotionally and gave a new sense to his life.

Despite living in California, he never forgot his origin in the Garden City. A song was specifically written by Neil in reference of his early life in Port Dalhousie (originally independent from St Catharines). Lakeside Park talks about this park where the pavilion is now built, an amusement park back in the days where Neil spent most of his summers, even working there for one season in the Bubble Game and Ball Toss. This is now a beautiful park with a beach that we visit during our Segway tour.

Neil passed away on January 7, 2020 in California of a brain cancer at the age of 67. Humble and well educated, he is a pleasure to listen too, drumming or not. Here is one of his interview where he reflexes about his life, with dignity and humor.

And we leave you with one of his solo performance, more than a performance, an emotional journey through your life, and the most amazing thing, it happens only with drums! Rest in peace Professor.

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