In a new interview with Craig Charles of BBC Radio 6 Music, RUSH bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee was asked if writing about drummer Neil Peart‘s death was “a difficult part” of his memoir, “My Effin’ Life”, to write. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Oh, it was very difficult. And I had to be discreet, but honest about my perspective. My perspective is only mine; it’s not the perspective of his family, his loved ones, his daughter, et cetera. 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 happened between [RUSH‘s] final gig in 2015 and Neil‘s passing [in 2020]. 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.’ And he still was very much a thinker right up to the end. So I tell these stories. I share some of the conversations, some of the e-mails we sent back and forth to each other during a very troubling time. And I hope fans understand that in a way, it’s my homage to him and the 40-plus years we spent working, laughing and loving together, I guess you could say.”
Asked if there was “a falling out” with Neil after RUSH played its final concert in 2015 or if the band was “just on a hiatus” and they were going to get back together again, Geddy said: “Well, [Neil] retired in 2015. And that was a hard and bitter pill for Alex [Lifeson, RUSH guitarist] and I to swallow. Even though Alex was having health issues of his own, he still wanted that last tour to go on 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.”
Lee continued: “[Neil] was having a few health problems of his own in a different way. And I think that sealed the deal for him. And 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. And then you had Alex and 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 conflicting emotions during that period of time. And, of course, it was only a year later that [Neil] was diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer. And, of course, none of that mattered anymore. That was a moot point then.”
Geddy kicked off his “My Effin’ Life In Conversation” tour on November 13 at The Beacon Theatre in New York. The trek sees the RUSH singer/bassist bring to life “My Effin’ Life”, which came out on November 14 via HarperCollins. Produced by Live Nation, the 14-city tour is making additional stops across North America before wrapping up in Toronto at Massey Hall on December 7.
During the Q&A portion of the Beacon Theatre evening, Lee reflected on the last time he saw Peart. Geddy said: “[During the final months of his life, Neil] would listen to a different RUSH album and he would be analyzing it and listening to something he hadn’t heard sometimes since we’d made it. And by the time that he sadly passed, he had listened to pretty much all the work we had done as a band. And the last time I saw him… [choking up] he wanted to tell me how proud he was of the music we have done together… Some of this stuff is hard to talk about. And it just blew me away that, in that moment, we were sitting on his balcony at his house. And whenever we left him towards the end, we never knew if we’d see him again or not. And so we were sitting on his balcony and he was having a smoke, because he loved to have a smoke, like clockwork. And we were talking about what a great moment it was that he was here in this place and we had just seen some parakeets flying into the trees and we both were bird nerds so we could talk about that. But he went on to talk about these songs and what they meant to him and he thought it was very important for me to know that, that our life as a rhythm section together was important to him. So I thought that was beautiful.”
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.
Last year, Geddy revealed that Neil wanted to keep his cancer diagnosis a secret prior to his death.
“[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 went on to say that he and Lifeson 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.”
As one of the most successful Canadian music group in history, RUSH has performed before millions of fans around the world. Ranked by Rolling Stone in the top ten bassists of all time, Lee has long been acclaimed for his wizard-like musical talent and mesmerizing performances.
Photo credit: Andrew MacNaughtan (2011 press photo courtesy of Atlantic Records)