Formed in 1968, Rush has to be one of Canada’s most extraordinary rock acts.
And clearly, institutions agree. In 1996, band members Geddy Lee (vocals, bass, keyboards, composer), Alex Lifeson (guitars, composer) and Neil Peart (1952-2020; drums, percussion, lyricist), were named as Officers of the Order of Canada, the Canadian government’s highest distinction for a citizen. In 2012, they received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. And in 2013, Canada Post Corporation created a permanent postage stamp with the band’s “starman” logo. In addition to many other honours and awards, the band was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California, USA.
The longstanding Lee/Lifeson/Peart lineup dates back to 1974 when Lee and Lifeson hired Peart to replace the band’s original drummer, John Rutsey, who left due to health issues and apparent incompatibility with the band’s developing style.
I’ve long been a fan of Rush and their lush, energetic rock sound and the elaborate, fantastical medieval/futuristic themes and anthems, particularly on their earlier albums. I came to know their music in junior high school when a friend played songs from their second record, Fly by Night (1975), then I started following them seriously with the album 2112 (1976) and later bought their debut record, Rush (1974). I saw them once in concert, and while I’m not 100% sure, I believe it would have been the tour for A Farewell to Kings (album, 1977; tour, 1977-78… a long time ago!). That album solidified my love for their style.
As the 1980s arrived, their albums became a little less conceptual, and the songs a bit shorter and, therefore, more what record executives would have considered radio-friendly. Rush was a hard-working band, making new records almost every year then touring to support those albums. In 1980, they issued Permanent Waves, which produced two major hits, “The Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill.” The next year, the band released Moving Pictures, which produced three singles, “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” and “Vital Signs.”
In all, I have six Rush records. I didn’t follow them as actively after 1981 as I soon met my next group of friends, “friends 2.0” and leaned toward the new wave, post-punk and new romantic genres. However, I still enjoy listening to their music as I was reminded last night when one of my lads shared a video by musician, producer and educator Rick Beato in his What Makes This Song Great? series, Episode 99, deconstructing The Cars’ first hit single, “Just What I Needed” (1978). Watching that video led me to Episode 63, which features “Limelight” (1981). Listening to the song took me back to my early twenties when the record came out.
A January 2021 Rolling Stone article tells about Peart’s life and career, the deaths of his daughter in a 1997 car accident and first wife from cancer less than a year later, then meeting his second wife with whom he had another daughter, followed by illness and retirement and, finally, his January 2020 death. In the article, Lee confirms the band will not continue:
“‘That’s finished, right? That’s over,’ Lee says. ‘I still am very proud of what we did. I don’t know what I will do again in music. And I’m sure Al doesn’t, whether it’s together, apart, or whatever. But the music of Rush is always part of us. And I would never hesitate to play one of those songs in the right context. But at the same time, you have to give respect to what the three of us with Neil did together.’”
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the official music video for the song from Rush’s YouTube channel (just look at them play!):
And the video of Episode 63 from Beato’s What Makes this Song Great?:
The full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.