A little over a year after the death of RUSH drummer Neil Peart, his bandmate of more than four decades, singer-bassist Geddy Lee opened up to Rolling Stone about his friend in an extensive interview.
When asked whether there were there times when he was truly awed with stuff that Neil either conceived or was just pulling off technically, Geddy responded: "With regularity. I've never met a musician like him. He was a monster drummer of the highest magnitude. I've met some great musicians but I had the pleasure to watch him every night onstage and watch him improvise, as he got older, through his solos."
Lee continued: "When he became determined to add improvisation as part of his drum solo every night, that's a bold, brave step for him and the level of complexity that he functioned at. I don't know many other musicians that can function at that level. So for me, I was always trying to live up to his watermark, so to speak, because he pushed me. He would say the same thing about me, but of course, I always thought, ‘No, no, I'm following you.'”
He added: "[Peart] set the bar really high for himself, and as his body started to let him down he worried that he would betray that. He was really big on that. He used to say all the time that he never wanted to let down the kid in him."
Lee also spoke about Peart's health issues, particularly during RUSH's final tour, "R40", which commemorated the 40th anniversary of Neil joining the band.
"He struggled through that tour," Geddy said. "He had lot of weird issues, physical issues, a tendency to get infections. He was so fucking stoic. He would never let, you know … You'd see him limping or something and you'd go, 'Man, what's going on?' 'Oh, fuck … I need to tell you.' But you had to guess if he even had a cold, because he didn't grumble about that kind of stuff. He was the exact opposite of me. When I have something wrong, everyone in the fucking organization knows I have something wrong. [Laughs] I really tried to teach him how to whine but he just couldn’t learn."
Peart died on January 7, 2020 in Santa Monica, California after a three-year battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was 67 years old.
RUSH announced Peart's passing three days later, setting off shockwaves and an outpouring of grief from fans and musicians all over the world.
RUSH's final show took place at the Forum in Los Angeles on August 1, 2015. Peart indicated at the time that he wanted to retire while he was still able to play well, along with a desire to spend more time at home with his young daughter.
Peart joined RUSH in 1974. He was considered one of the best rock drummers of all time, alongside John Bonham of LED ZEPPELIN; Keith Moon of THE WHO; and Ginger Baker of CREAM. Peart was also RUSH's primary lyricist, drawing inspiration from everything from sci-fi to Ayn Rand.