John Rutsey Biography

Claim to Fame: Drummer (Rush)
DOB: May 14, 1953
Date of Death: May 11, 2008
Diabetes Type: Type 1

John Rutsey was a founding member of the legendary Canadian rock band Rush. In 1968, he founded the band along with guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist Jeff Jones. As drummer, Rutsey provided the beat that served as the backbone of the band for six years.

The band unanimously selected Rutsey to be head lyricist during the creation of the debut album. However, Rutsey became frustrated and dissatisfied with his writing attempts, delaying the production of new songs. The drummer also frequently suffered from illnesses related to type 1 diabetes. Such health struggles hindered Rutsey's ability to participate in extended touring and drained his passion for performing on stage. In 1974, Rutsey departed from Rush mostly due to the incompatibility of diabetes and a rock-and-roll lifestyle. On July 25, 1974 Rutsey gave his last performance with the band at London's Centennial Hall. He was later replaced by drummer Neil Peart, marking a pivotal change that permanently transformed the band's sound from blues-rock to progressive rock.

After leaving Rush, Rutsey maintained a low profile. He abandoned drumming and dabbled in bodybuilding, occasionally entering competitions as an amateur. He and his former bandmates kept in touch until the early 1990s.

On May 11, 2008, after fighting type 1 diabetes his entire life, Rutsey suffered a diabetes-related heart attack and died in his sleep. In his obituary, his family urged his friends and fans to make donations to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Rutsey's memory. After his death, former bandmates Jeff Jones and Alex Lifeson released a statement emphasizing Rutsey's critical role in the formation of Rush while nostalgically complimenting Rutsey on his "sense of humour and impeccable timing."

Find more musicians with diabetes

Last Modified Date: November 28, 2012

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