MIKE PORTNOY Picks NEIL PEART Over JOHN BONHAM As 'The Greatest Drummer Of All Time'
February 25, 2021
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of RUSH's "Moving Pictures" album and to honor the late Neil Peart, Consequence Of Sound gathered four renowned drummers via video Zoom to discuss the album and the legacy of RUSH's legendary stickman.
Taking part in the round-table discussion were Mike Portnoy (DREAM THEATER, THE WINERY DOGS, SONS OF APOLLO),Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX),Matt Halpern (PERIPHERY) and Arejay Hale (HALESTORM).
Speaking about the greatness and influence of Peart, including how it compares to that of another iconic drummer, late LED ZEPPELIN member John Bonham, Portnoy said (see video below): "I think John Bonham has been universally acclaimed as one of the greatest of all time, and deservingly so — he really, really is deserving of that. But with all due respect, his entire recording career only lasted 11 years, and he's also now been gone for, what, I guess 40 years. So there is something to be said for his place in drumming history because he's been gone for so long.
"I think Neil had 40 years of a drumming career, and he's only been gone one year," Mike continued. "So I think time will tell. It's ridiculous to even have to choose between the two, 'cause they both brought so much to the drum world and they both left behind such an incredible legacy. But I think the fact that Neil's drumming career was 40 years long and gave us 40 years of music and drumming to listen to and reflect on, I think, to me, that puts him ahead of John. I think he's the greatest of all time — I really do. And I think he's only been gone a year, so it's hard to really see how that's gonna be felt five, 10, 20 years from now. But I think he will go down in history as the greatest rock drummer of all time — I really do."
Portnoy added: "Another thing that also showed his impact was when he died last year, how it impacted everybody beyond drummers. The social media feeds, for weeks after he passed, was nothing but him. It was similar to when Eddie Van Halen died last year as well, and Eddie is a similar type of player in the guitar world; Eddie was what a lot of people consider the greatest of all time — up there with [Jimi] Hendrix — and the same here with Neil up there with Bonham. And the fact that they both went in the same year, but both of their deaths — Eddie and Neil — just went beyond just their respective instruments. The whole world was hit by it and affected by it."
A year ago, Portnoy spoke to World Prog-Nation about how Peart influenced him on a musical and personal level. He said: "I spent 20, 30 years idolizing him and being his biggest fan. And all those years, it was mainly the drum kit — the drum kit was such a fascination for me. He always built such amazing kits and put so much thought into it. I'd always get the tour programs where he'd write about the kit and what the new things were on it, and I would just look at those photos. Most other kids were looking at Playboy centerfolds; I was looking at Neil Peart drum kits. And then, obviously, his playing — it goes without saying. I learned how to really develop parts and orchestrate drum parts to build and change and develop within the song. So that was the biggest stuff for me as a fan. And then later on, once I got to know him, I was so inspired by what a gracious person he was."
Mike added: "He had this reputation that he was sort of quiet and isolated and private, and he was, and it was very important for him to guard that. But once you were somehow allowed into that inner cicle, he was always so sweet and kind and generous. He'd always send me holiday e-mails and he would always send me his new books and stuff like that. It was a relationship that I'll always cherish and I was honored to have."
RUSH announced Peart's passing on January 10, 2020, setting off shockwaves and an outpouring of grief from fans and musicians all over the world.
RUSH's final show took place at the Forum in Los Angeles on August 1, 2015. Peart indicated at the time that he wanted to retire while he was still able to play well, along with a desire to spend more time at home with his young daughter.