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."
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