Neil Peart died one year ago today (January 7), and his Rush bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson are opening up about the final years of their friend’s life.
In a feature from Rolling Stone, Lee and Lifeson recall receiving an email from Peart letting him know he had glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
“He basically blurted it out. ‘I have a brain tumor. I’m not joking,'” said Lee. Lifeson received the email while at a golf course and said, “I think I started crying right there.”
Peart was a notoriously private man and only told a select few individuals of his diagnosis. Lifeson said, “Neil asked us not to discuss it with anyone. He just wanted to be in control of it. The last thing in the world he would want is people sitting on his sidewalk or driveway singing ‘Closer to the Heart’ or something. That was a great fear of his. He didn’t want that attention at all. And it was definitely difficult to lie to people or to sidestep or deflect somehow. It was really difficult.”
As for how Peart handled his diagnosis, Lee said, “He was a tough man. He was nothing if not stoic, that man…He was pissed off, obviously. But he had to accept so much horrible s—. He got very good at accepting sh—y news. And he was OK with it. He was going to do his best to stick around as long as he could, for the sake of his family. And he did unbelievably well…He accepted his fate, certainly more gracefully than I would.”
Lee and Lifeson also noted that Peart became uncharacteristically reflective in his final years and revisited and relistened to the Rush catalog.
Lifeson said, “I don’t think any of us listen to a lot of our old music. It’s all been done and played. But my guess is that he was just reviewing some of the things that he accomplished, in terms of music, anyways. And I think he was a little surprised at how well it turned out.” He added, “I think that happens, you kind of forget. It was interesting to see him smile and feel really good about that. And when he still could write to us, he wrote about how he was reviewing some of our older music and how it stood up for him.”
Lee added, “Knowing Neil the way I do and knowing that he knew how much time he had left, I think it was a natural thing for him to review the work of his life. And he was finding himself very proud of how he had spent a big chunk of his life. And he wanted to share that with Alex and I. Whenever we saw him, he wanted to talk about that. He wanted us to know that he was proud.”
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