In a new interview with Tom Power, host of “Q” on Canada’s CBC Radio One, RUSH bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee was asked how his relationship with the band’s drummer Neil Peart changed after he found out that Neil was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Geddy said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Well, it came at a time that I was still getting over the end of the band. Neil had retired. He hadn’t retired from RUSH; he had retired from music. And I wasn’t ready for that to happen, so I had some resentment; I had some feelings that were unresolved. Alex [Lifeson, RUSH guitarist] did as well. And we had just started to communicate again. ‘Cause even though the band was over, we had unfinished business. We had this video to edit, this film concert footage from our last tour. And I remember watching it and listening to the drum solo, as I had every night for over 40-odd years, and I was just amazed. And so even though we had a bit of a stiff relationship at that moment, because he had left to be with his new family, as he should have been, and as he had earned the right… And so I wrote him a note and I said, ‘Man, I just listened to the drum solo. It’s just so effing awesome.’ And he just opened up to me. He just wrote this effusive note. I mean, he was not a man to write short notes. So he wrote me this long e-mail and he talked about how frustrated he was that no one was making any comments about his drum solo all through the tour. We hadn’t said in rehearsal that we liked [it]. He’d worked so hard to build his drum solo and we didn’t say anything. I guess he [needed that kind of validation from us], but who knew? I didn’t. And I remember on many occasions complimenting him. And besides, I sat there every single night listening to his drum solo. I wasn’t in the dressing room checking box scores, I assure you; I was listening to his drum solo. So that kind of started to break the ice. And he wrote about how happy he was and how he was a librarian at his daughter’s school. And I said to myself, “What kind of an idiot would begrudge this man that feeling, fulfilling that obligation of being a father to his daughter, enjoying his new family?’ So it was a kind of an awakening for me, and I felt like I had just been too selfish and not enough of a friend.”
Lee, who is promoting his just-released memoir, “My Effin’ Life”, continued: “And it was right at that time that I had gone to England with my wife and, of course, we were sitting in a restaurant and we got an e-mail from Neil saying that he was ill. And it was devastating. It was really hard to swallow. But that’s the way it was. And so, in a second, any feelings of regret or judgment about his retirement, it just melted away in a… By the time I finished the end of the e-mail, which was very short — [he] just stated what was happening to him — all those feelings had changed. I realized, ‘Okay, there’s a bigger problem now.'”
Power went on to ask Lee what he made of the fact that Peart went back and listened to all of the RUSH albums one by one in the months leading up to his death. “It shocked me, really,” Geddy said. “And Alex too, ’cause I remember one visit we had to L.A. when he was ill. And he was sitting there telling us… We would go to his Bubba Cave for lunch and get his favorite takeout food and spend an hour or two making him laugh as best we could. And so he was telling us he was on the ways back and forth to the cave every day… He went every day to the Bubba Cave. That was his fortress of solitude. And he said his friend Juan, who was driving him, would play him a different RUSH album on the way in every day. And he was analyzing them all and he couldn’t wait to talk to us about them, his feelings and his thoughts and his pride. And it was shocking, ’cause it was out of character that he would look back like that. But when you think about it, he knew he was at the end of his life. And he wanted to review the work he had done and to share with us his pride. That’s the point I’m trying to get at, is that he wanted to share his pride with us. Let us know that he was proud.”
Asked how the experience was of writing about Neil‘s death in his book, Geddy said: “After he passed away… He wanted to keep [his illness] quiet. So we kept it quiet. That was his wish. And that was difficult, because things leak out. People would hear something and then they would call you and they would ask you about, ‘How’s Neil? Is he okay?’ And You would just lie, you would just change the subject or make a joke or [say], ‘Oh, yeah, he’s fine. Yeah, no problem.’ So that was a burden. And after he passed and they released a press release about it, it was hard to break out of the silent mode that we had been in for three and a half years. And I didn’t feel right to talk about it. I felt like I would be betraying him in some way if I spoke about these intimate moments. And when I wrote the book, I was very careful to choose moments that I think he would approve of me sharing and that showed him in the light he deserved to be shown.”
Geddy kicked off his “My Effin’ Life In Conversation” tour Monday night (November 13) at The Beacon Theatre in New York. The trek sees the RUSH singer/bassist bring to life his memoir “My Effin’ Life”, which was released on November 14 on HarperCollins. Produced by Live Nation, the 14-city tour is making additional stops across North America in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and more before wrapping up in Toronto at Massey Hall on December 7.
Peart died in January 2020 after a three-year battle with glioblastoma.
RUSH waited three days to announce Peart‘s passing, setting off shockwaves and an outpouring of grief from fans and musicians all over the world.