Mike Portnoy Guarded Neil Peart's Cancer Secret For Over Two Years

By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta

January 14, 2020

Rush Performs At KeyArena - Seattle, WA

Co-founding Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy says Neil Peart disclosed his cancer fight to him two years ago and swore him to secrecy.

Despite having knowledge of the prognosis, Portnoy tells Eddie Trunk in a recent interview that he didn't learn of Peart's death until the rest of the world. And time to prepare didn't soften the blow at all.

"It just took the wind out of me when I heard it on Friday." Portnoy said.

Peart reportedly died last Tuesday, January 7, though his family didn't alert the press until Friday afternoon.

Portnoy, along with Tool's Danny Carey, is one of the most notable modern rock acolytes of the late-Rush drummer. Dream Theater was known for covering Rush songs when the band played Toronto during Portnoy's tenure. A few weeks ago, Portnoy dispelled a rumor that he was in line to take Peart's place in a revamped version of Rush. Tool paid tribute to Peart and Rush at a concert over the weekend.

Portnoy, says he and Peart were pen pals for the past few years, and he's spent much of the past several days re-reading their correspondences.

"You've read his books, you've read his tour programs, you've read his blogs on his website, and that's the way he wrote even in his emails," Portnoy explained. "So whenever I would get an email from him, it was very, very lengthy, very thorough, went into a lot of details whatever he was going through."

The two last met in person in 2015, during Rush's 'R40' tour. Portnoy recalls it as an especially memorable day because Peart let his son Max Portnoy play his massive drum kit.

"This one's a big one for me, personally," Portnoy said of Peart's death. "I haven't felt like this since maybe John Lennon or John Bonham or Frank Zappa. It hits on that level as a fan, as it does for millions of Rush fans around the world. But this has a whole new level for me as well, because I didn't know John Lennon or John Bonham or Frank Zappa, but Neil I did know and had a relationship with. So there's that whole level as well, which just makes it horrible."

Photos: Getty Images

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My tribute to Neil Peart and @rush continues... Through all my years in Dream Theater, as the Setlist writer in the band I would often throw in one-off Rush Covers into the setlists... . . It was a tradition everytime we played in Toronto as I threw in “Jacobs Ladder”, “A Passage to Bangkok” and “The Camera Eye” throughout the years at our Toronto shows. We also covered “Different Strings”, “Tears” and excerpts of “Working Man”, “By Tor and The Snow Dog”, “The Analog Kid” ”2112 Grand Finale” and “La Villa Strangiato” through the years as well... . . But there was one evening in the summer of 2003 when we were playing at the Jones Beach Amphitheater in New York, that I decided to throw in a real deep Rush gemstone to the completely unsuspecting audience...and later that Christmas, I posted a video from my archives to share it with everybody as a Holiday gift. . I think with Neil’s passing it seems like a timely time to re-share this DT rarity from my archives as a tribute to our biggest influences and our fallen hero...here is DT’s 2003 rendition of Rush’s 1975 classic deep cut: The Necromancer https://youtu.be/lOIxVrwqllA (LINK IN STORY!!) @rush @dreamtheaterofficial

A post shared by Mike Portnoy (@mikeportnoy) on

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