Rush’s Geddy Lee has revealed that bandmate Neil Peart wanted to keep his cancer diagnosis a secret prior to his death.
The visionary Hall of Fame drummer died on January 7, 2020, after quietly battling brain cancer for three years.
Speaking in a new interview, Lee and Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson discussed Peart’s final years and how he wanted to keep his illness quiet, which forced the band to protect his privacy by keeping fans in the dark.
“[Peart] didn’t want anyone to know [about his illness],” Lee said on Canadian talk show House Of Strombo. “He just didn’t. He wanted to keep it in the house. And we did. And that was hard. I can’t tell you it was easy, ’cause it was not easy.
“And it was ongoing. His diagnosis was… he was given 18 months at the most, and it went on three and a half years. And so that was a constant flow of us going to see him, giving him support.”
Lee then explained that the band had to be “dishonest” to fans in order to protect Peart’s privacy.
“What his family had to live through was really difficult, so it was a lot of back-and-forth,” he said. “And when you’re in that state, it’s very hard to function normally, because you can’t talk to anybody about it, ’cause no one’s supposed to know. And so people hear rumblings and they bring things up to you, and you deflect it. And so that feels, on one hand, it feels dishonest, but on the other hand you’re being loyal to your friend. So fuck the dishonesty part. That wins.”
He continued: “I would say that was the most difficult time for us to move forward, during that whole thing, because we were in this bubble of grief sort of walking towards an inevitable and terrible conclusion.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the two remaining members expressed disappointment in how things essentially ended for Rush, prior to finding out about Peart’s cancer diagnosis.
“Let’s be honest, it was frustrating to end when we ended,” said Lee. “I was frustrated, because I worked so hard on that [40th anniversary] tour in terms of design and putting it all together and the whole concept of going backwards, a chronology that exposes itself or exploits itself while going back in time. And so I was really proud of it. I wanted to take it to Europe to play for the European fans, I wanted to take it to South America, and that wasn’t gonna happen.”
Lifeson added: “I thought we were all playing really, really well, and I probably could have continued to do another 30 shows, and I think Geddy felt the same way. But it was becoming really difficult for Neil to play at that level, and unless he could play a hundred percent at that level, he really didn’t wanna do any more shows … And it was hard for him – a three-hour show playing the way he played. It’s a miracle that he was even able to play.”
Meanwhile, Rush’s Geddy Lee has opened up on the affect of Taylor Hawkins‘ death on him, saying the Foo Fighters drummer’s passing “broke my heart”.