Neil Peart’s family and bandmates on keeping his illness private: “He wanted to be in control”

The legendary Rush drummer died last January after a secret three-year battle with brain cancer

The wife and bandmates of late Rush drummer Neil Peart have discussed being asked to keep the legend’s health battles private in a new interview.

Peart passed away last January after quietly battling brain cancer for three years.

Rush members Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson and Peart’s wife Carrie Nuttall have now spoken to Rolling Stone to mark the one year anniversary of the drummer’s death yesterday (January 7).

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In the interview, Lifeson said that Peart “asked us not to discuss [the illness] with anyone,” adding: “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.”

Rush's Neil Peart
Rush’s Neil Peart. Credit: Fin Costello/Redferns

“He didn’t want to waste his remaining time talking about shit like that,” Lee added. “He wanted to have fun with us. And he wanted to talk about real things right up to the very end.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Lifeson spoke of how Peart spent his final days revisiting Rush’s material, and reflecting on his life in music.

“My guess is that he was just reviewing some of the things that he accomplished, in terms of music, anyways,” he said. “And I think he was a little surprised at how well it turned out. I think that happens, you kind of forget.

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“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.”

In the days following his death last year, Donna Halper – the woman credited with discovering Rush while working at an Ohio radio station back in 1974 – addressed rumours that Peart was unable to speak in the months prior to his death after a three-year battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

“Sad to say, there are some rumors about Neil Peart’s final months circulating on social media,” she wrote on Twitter. “The vast majority are inaccurate. As for me, I choose to remember Neil as he was, and I want to respect his family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

An NME obituary to Peart described him as “the professor of drums who weaved fantasy into rock”.

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