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John Rutsey, a co-founding member of Canadian rock band Rush, died last week in Toronto from complications from a lifelong battle with diabetes. He was 55.

His family announced his death in a newspaper announcement May 20. Rutsey left the group after recording their first album in 1974.

Rutsey co-founded Rush with lead singer Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in 1968 in Toronto, but left the group for health reasons. He was replaced by drummer and lyricist Neil Peart just before the group’s first U.S. tour.

“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 humor and impeccable timing,” said Lee and Lifeson on the band’s web site.

Following the release of Rush’s self-titled bluesy/heavy metal debut album in 1974, the band went on to record many award-winning albums including 24 gold records and 14 platinum (3 multi-platinum) records. Rush was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 1994.

The family has requested donations be made in Rutsey’s memory to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.