Neil Peart’s sister Nancy Peart Burkholder has opened up about the passing of the Rush drummer more than three and a half years ago.
The drummer passed on January 7, 2020, after a three-year battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. He died in Santa Monica, California at the age of 67. The band announced Peart’s passing three days later.
Speaking with Kelly Barrett on her show Etcetera With Kelly Barrett, Burkholder reflected on the passing of her brother. “We had three and a half years to prepare, so we knew it was coming,” she said. “And then once it happened, we had that week of radio silence where we couldn’t tell anybody. And then we got — I think we had 10 minutes’ notice before it was going live to the world. So we had 10 minutes to tell everyone that we hadn’t told in three and a half years that, ‘Sorry, we lied. Everything’s not okay.’ So, yeah, it was a really hard — that week was the hardest week that we went through because we knew and couldn’t share it.”
After being asked if fans and other people were respectful of the family’s privacy at that time, Burkholder responded: “Oh, our messages were blowing up. My daughter finally turned her phone off. She’s also a musician. She’s in the [music] world. And she actually wrote a song that week called ‘Radio Silence’ because we were under radio silence.”
She continued: “It played at ‘A Night For Neil’ [memorial event which was held in October 2022 at Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada]. It was incredible. So, yeah, it was a very surreal week. But that 10 minutes was, like… I can’t even remember who I called in that 10 minutes. Everybody I knew, well, I had to message them all at once, ’cause we knew we had 10 minutes. And then just as one of my best friends got my message, it was on the radio. And then all of them, of course, were getting called because their families all know the connection and that — the same thing — had 45 years with him, technically. So, yeah, it was a shock that went around the world, that’s for sure.”
It was revealed last year that the Rush drummer wanted to keep his cancer diagnosis a secret prior to his death. Appearing on the Canadian talk show House Of Strombo Peart’s bandmate, Geddy Lee shared: “[Peart] didn’t want anyone to know [about his illness]. 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.”
He continued by saying that both he and Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson had to be “dishonest” to fans in order to protect Peart’s privacy.