RUSH's Longtime Friend Says Claims That NEIL PEART Couldn't Speak Before His Death Are 'Not Accurate'

January 19, 2020

Donna Halper — the woman who is credited with discovering RUSH while working at an Ohio radio station back in 1974 — says it is "inaccurate" to say that drummer Neil Peart was unable to speak in the months leading up to his death.

Halper appeared to be responding to a recent interview with Sully Erna, where the GODSMACK frontman said that his "friend" Peart "was in a wheelchair and he couldn't speak" as of around a year before he passed on January 7 following a three-year battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

On Saturday (January 18),Halper took to her Twitter to write: "Sad to say, there are some rumors about Neil Peart's final months circulating on social media. The vast majority are inaccurate. As for me, I choose to remember Neil as he was, and I want to respect his family's privacy during this difficult time."

She added in follow-up tweets: "Normally, I would remain silent and let people say what they want to say, but this is different. My friendship with RUSH is something I take very seriously, and I will defend the truth as much as I can. It's the least I can do.

"But it ended the way he wanted, surrounded by his family & best friends. (By the way, he was able to speak, almost till the very end, I am told.) Anyway, I'm just sorry there is no cure for the kind of cancer he had. May he rest in peace.

"That's the only reason I decided to say something. I hope folks understand. This is not about me. It's about respecting Neil's memory and letting him rest in peace.

"Yes, it is true that Neil fought his disease bravely. This kind of cancer has taken a number of wonderful people from us. But he never gave up, and he did not want folks to know how sick he was.

"I don't know whether he had the energy to keep a journal. But I do know that claims he couldn't speak are not accurate. I assume if he wrote anything, it will come out eventually. I don't think this is the right time for me to ask, however.

"I was there for it all, from 1974 till they stopped performing as a band. We've kept in touch for more than forty-five years, and I feel very fortunate to be even a small part of their story.

"I've been friends with the members of the band (and in some cases, their families) for more than four decades. It's something that means a lot to me. So, I'm getting my information from folks who were there, is all I'm saying.

"There's a normal human tendency to put oneself at the center of a story. I'm not calling anyone a liar or saying anyone intentionally misstated facts. I'm just saying Neil's family & closest friends have a different version of events, and I defer to them."

According to NPR, Halper is credited with getting RUSH its U.S. record deal and breaking the band: In 1974, while working as music director and a DJ at the legendary Cleveland radio station WMMS, she played an import copy of RUSH's early single, "Working Man", which promptly took off. The buzz soon led to a record deal for the band, which singled out Halper for special thanks in the liner notes of its self-titled debut album.

In a 2008 interview with The Patriot Ledger, Halper stated about RUSH: "I can tell you that success has not spoiled [the members of RUSH] at all. They've had many gold albums, performed all over the world, and have earned the acclaim of a devoted fan base. Critics have been somewhat scornful of them, but their millions of fans adore them."

At the time, RUSH bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee spoke fondly about Halper, saying: "She is a fiercely passionate and highly opinionated woman and is a tireless supporter of RUSH.

"We have remained friends through the years and she always makes a point of paying us a visit whenever we are near her home."

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