Kudos to all those people for keeping things quiet. Neil was always a private person and they were able to shield him from any publicity for years.
Someone did email me last fall saying that he’d heard fourth-hand that Neil had months to live, but I dismissed that. Surely we would have heard something. Didn’t give it a second thought.
Now, though, amidst all the mourning and all the tributes, a few stories are beginning to come out. Neil might have been ill as far back as the final Rush tour in 2015.
Sully Erna of Godsmack gave an interview to Boston radio station WAAF. He and Neil became friends sometime around 2002.
“[S]ince then, I became really good friends with his assistant and we’ve always kept in touch. I think we may have one of the last on-camera interviews with Neil, recently, when he agreed to do an interview for the director of this feature documentary we’re doing on my life story. He sat down in his whole drumming warehouse place and talked about me and Shannon’s playing and our drum solo and how impressed he was with the whole thing. And then soon after that, I heard he had gotten sick.”
According to Sully, “But I knew when they were ending the Rush tour [R40, in 2015], that he was sick.
“And then I knew it, even up to a year ago or so, he was in a wheelchair and he couldn’t speak. And it was just becoming more and more sad to me.”
Brain cancer is very, very, very cruel. Rest in peace, Neil.
You can listen to the whole interview here. (Via Gordie)