This past November, Geddy Lee released his memoir, My Effin’ Life, which (obviously) sees him going into great detail about his time with Rush. During a recent interview with BBC Radio 6 Music, Lee reflected on why writing about drummer Neil Peart’s 2020 passing was particularly “difficult” and risky.
Speaking to host Craig Charles (of Red Dwarf fame) last month, Lee admitted that it was challenging to discuss Peart’s death in the book. About an hour into their chat, Lee explained:
It was very difficult, and I had to be discreet but honest about my perspective, you know? My perspective is only mine; it’s not the perspective of his family, his loved ones, his daughter, etc. That’s theirs, so I had to tread carefully, but I think it was helpful for me and I think people are interested to know what – what happened between [Rush’s] final gig in 2015 and . . . Neil’s passing.
So, I did my best to be honest and respectful of what Neil would have okayed me to talk about and to paint the portrait of what a brave person he was through all the difficulties of those last few years and how he always would say, “Mustn’t grumble.” He still was very much a thinker right up to the end, so I tell these stories. I share some of the conversations [and] some of the e-mails we sent back and forth to each other during a very troubling time.
I hope fans understand that . . . in a way, it’s my homage to him and, you know, the 40-plus years we spent working, laughing and loving together, I guess you could say.
Afterward, Charles wonders if there was “a falling out” following Rush’s last show, or if the band was “just on a hiatus” before planning to get “back together again.” Candidly, Lee responds:
Well, [Neil] retired in 2015, and that was a hard and bitter pill for Alex [Lifeson] and I to swallow. Even though Alex was having health issues of his own, he still wanted that last tour to go on, you know, longer, as did I. We were very proud of the “R40” tour, and I especially wanted to bring it to the U.K. ’cause we have so many good fans there, and to Germany and to Holland, where we have some really diehard fans. But, [Neil] had only agreed to do 30 shows, and we had to honor that agreement ‘cause he wasn’t gonna do any shows before that tour, and he acquiesced.
Of course, we held out hope that he’d change his mind and he was having so much fun that he would say, “Oh, come on. We’ll do another 20 gigs.” But, it wasn’t meant to be. [Neil] was having a few health problems of his own in a different way, and I think that sealed the deal for him. So, at the very last gig, we were quite divergent in our moods. There was a dressing room that Neil was in that was ebullient and happy that he was about to retire and enter this other phase of his life with his wife and his young daughter.
Then, you had Alex in my dressing room where we were kind of down in the dumps because we knew this could be the very end of our band. So, it was, um, conflicting emotions during that period of time, and . . . it was only a year later that [Neil] was diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer. Of course, none of that mattered anymore. That was a moot point then.
In reference to Peart, Charles then asks, “Greatest rock and roll drummer that ever have existed, would you say?” Jovially, Lee replies: “Well, he’s certainly one of them. He was my favorite, but I’m biased [Laughs].”
You can listen to entire episode here.
Last month, Lee told New York’s Q104.3’s Jonathan “JC” Clarke that playing the 2022 Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concerts was “one of the greatest memories of [his] lifetime.” As for if and how he and Lifeson will write songs together again, Lee says that they do “plan to write some songs together, but [they] don’t know if they’ll be any damn good, so we’ll see what happens.”
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Gallery Credit: Ryan Reed