Nancy Peart Burkholder, one of Rush drummer Neil Peart‘s two sisters, has shared her memories of her brother’s passing. Peart died on January 7, 2020, following a three and a half year battle with brain cancer (Glioblastoma), and his death was announced three days later, on January 10,m 2020.
In conversation with podcaster Kelly Barrett, Burkholder recalls how family members had to keep the news of her brother’s death a secret for those three days, until the official announcement was made via Rush’s website and social media channels.
“We had three and a half years to prepare, so we knew it was coming,” she says. “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.”
Burkholder recalls that, when news of her brother’s death became public knowledge, the family were bombarded with messages of sympathy.
“Our messages were blowing up,” she tells Barrett. “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. It played at A Night For Neil [ a memorial event for the drummer held in October 2022]. 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.”
In the interview Burkholder also recalls how, when she was young, her brother would drum on her playpen, and how one particular neighbour would occasionally call the police to visit the family home when her brother was drumming in the family’s garage.