Neil Peart Had Brain Cancer For Over Three Years…And Told Almost No One
The surprising news that Rush’s extraordinary drummer and lyricist Neil Peart has died at age 67, comes as a shock to the world. While music lovers will try to absorb the stunning news, only Peart’s family, band mates and a few close friends knew this day was imminently closer than anyone realized.
Peart passed away quietly in Santa Monica, CA on Tuesday, January 7 of brain cancer. For over three years Peart was fighting the disease. His close circle of friends knew his predicament. Everyone else had no idea.
Peart’s survivors include his wife Carrie and daughter Olivia. Peart escaped a media frenzy of reporting on his illness, as doubtless there would be, had anyone known about his cancer. That’s the kind of man Neil Peart was. Ferocious on drums. Private, quiet and introspective in life. Peart did not want consolation from the world by sharing that he was ill. His reticence to speak publicly, well established.
On tour in the early 1990s I met both Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee backstage shortly after a show at Madison Square Garden. We talked for a minute. I expressed my undying gratitude for their music. Took a photograph with them, that I unfortunately never received from the official photographer. I was looking around for Neil Peart. Nowhere in the room. Peart rarely did meet and greets. Smiling and shaking hands with a room crowded with strangers. Why would anyone subject themselves to that. Peart didn’t. I couldn’t blame him.
Band mates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson said on Twitter:
“It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three-and-half-year battle with brain cancer (Glioblastoma). We ask that fans, friends and media alike understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time. Those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil’s name.
Rest in peace brother.
Peart’s professional success was offset by personal tragedy. His first daughter, Selena Taylor, died in a 1997 car accident. In a double blow, less than 10 months later Peart’s common-law wife Jacqueline Taylor died of cancer on June 20, 1998.
Afterwards Peart admitted he considered suicide. “In the days following Selena’s death, I had learned for myself how a sunny day could actually seem dark, the sun totally wrong, and how the world around me, the busy lives of all those oblivious strangers, could seem so futile and unreal — as futile and unreal as what passed for my own life.”
It is rare that a famous death affects tens of millions of people. Peart’s death has that impact. The word genius is in use for so many people that it blurs the true meaning of the word. Neil Peart – musical genius. A professional musician who brought joy and inspiration to so many will be remembered. Rush’s music lives on and will continue to do so for as long as there are intelligent people who can appreciate a progression of sounds that can touch souls.
We will leave it to others to try and define the importance of Neil Peart. Similar to how Peart left it to others to try and define his lyrics.