John Rutsey

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John Howard Rutsey (May 14, 1953 – May 11, 2008) from Ontario, Canada was a former drummer, most recognized for being a co-founding member of Rush along with Alex Lifeson and Jeff Jones.


In 1963 Rutsey met future Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson in school. Both interested in music, they decided to form a band. Rutsey played drums in Rush from summer 1968 until July 1974.[citation needed] It was during this time that he played on the "Not Fade Away"/"You Can't Fight It" single and the band's eponymous debut LP. According to the Rush biography Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home & Away written by Martin Popoff, Lee and Lifeson both acknowledged that during the writing and recording sessions for the band's debut album Rutsey was given the role of chief lyricist; however, come time to record the songs Rutsey did not deliver any lyrics. In interviews, Lee and Lifeson have both said that Rutsey was dissatisfied with what he had written and tore up the lyric sheets.

Soon after the band released its debut album, Rutsey left the band, due to health concerns related to diabetes, which may have posed potential problems with extended tours.[1] His final performance with the group was on July 25, 1974 at Centennial Hall in London, Ontario.[citation needed] His replacement was Neil Peart.

Rutsey maintained a low media profile after leaving the band. In a 1991 Rockline interview, Lifeson remarked, "John's still around. I see John quite often. He gave up playing shortly after he left the band and went into bodybuilding. He competed on an amateur level for a while, doing that for a few years, and has sort of been in and out of that, but he still works out, and I work out with him a few times a week at a local gym - at a Gold's, here in Toronto." In a more recent interview on the VH1 Classic show "Hangin' With," Alex said that he had not seen John since around 1990.

On May 11, 2008, Rutsey died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack, related to complications from diabetes.[2] Rutsey's family wished to keep the funeral a private affair, although an obituary posted in the Toronto Star on May 15 suggested those wishing to pay tribute to Rutsey could do so by making a donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Ontario.[3]

After Rutsey's death, former bandmates Lee and Lifeson released this statement: "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." [4]

Rutsey's part in the band's early history is acknowledged in the 2010 documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. Tape-recorded comments from him are heard during the film, and the DVD release includes two performances with him on drums in its bonus features.


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