“Neil Peart will always be a mentor and a hero to me and his influence on me as a drummer for the past 40 years is absolutely impossible to measure,” Portnoy wrote.
“But beyond that, over the past 15 years or so, he’s become a friend…always such a gentleman and a gracious host. Always inviting me to come to soundcheck and spend some time before the show whenever Rush was passing through.”
A co-founder of prog-rock act Dream Theater, Portnoy has long proclaimed that Peart was his biggest drumming influence. In 2004, Portnoy became the second-youngest person to enter the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame; Peart remains the youngest-ever inducted, receiving the honor in 1983. Peart also ranked Number Four on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.
“I have so many memories through the years, but probably the most special was the last time I saw him,” Portnoy continued.
“I took my son Max to see Rush on their farewell tour as I wanted him to see the band before they retired…Neil ever the incredible gracious host invited us to soundcheck, let Max play his drums, gave him a pair of sticks and an autographed snare drum head and opened up his dressing room to us for the evening. The point is, if you were his guest you were family.”
Peart died Tuesday following a lengthy and unpublicized battle with brain cancer; the drummer’s death was announced Friday by a representative for the family.
“Sadly, I’ve known about Neil’s declining health for a few years now and always feared this news… but I am still shaken to the core in shock,” Portnoy continued. “I could go on and on and on but I need to process this.”
Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson also issued a statement Friday, mourning the death of their longtime bandmate and asking for privacy during this time for Peart’s family. Rush also requested that fans make a donation to any cancer-fighting organization under Peart’s name.