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Rush - A Canadian Classic

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Rush – A Canadian Classic

May 13, 2010




Jon Neudorf



The progressive rock band Rush has been ingrained into the psyche of Canadian music fans for well over thirty years. In 1976 the band released the classic 2112 and have not looked back since. A bold musical statement was made and Rush was on the verge of superstardom. Few bands have had the artistic and commercial success Rush has had and have lived to tell about it. The fact Rush has remained great friends for the last forty-two odd years is incredible and speaks volumes of the individuals in the band. Fast forward to the year 2010 and Rush's induction into the Canadian Songwriter's Hall of Fame. The inception took place on Sunday, March 28 and joining Rush were other Canadian icons including Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen.

This is not the first time the band has been honoured. Rush were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994 and made Officer's of the Order of Canada in 1996. Through the band's illustrious career they have fourteen platinum albums and have six Grammy Award nominations.

Rush has been awarded this honour on the basis of five songs: "Closer to the Heart", "The Spirit of Radio", "Tom Sawyer", "Subdivisions" and "Limelight". What strikes me as a little ironic is the fact that Rush is perhaps best known for writing epic songs, not short and concise singles. Of course when one takes a closer look at the five songs represented, they all did well commercially and are some of the band's best known compositions.

In a telling interview with Laurie Brown of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), both Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee offer insight and candor into their incredible musical journey and talk about each of the five songs. Lets now have a look at each song starting with "Closer to the Heart", released in 1977. Perhaps more than any other song, "Closer to the Heart" strikes a chord with people, not just in North America but the world over. I remember hearing it on the radio all those years ago and it is probably the one song that started me on my life long journey with Rush's music. It has always been one of those tunes where its great to sing along with and the lyrics are particularly good. Geddy Lee says "We loved the lyrics right away. Sometimes when Neil presents us with a sheet of lyrics they're just great, you don't want to touch them." He goes on to say "That was one of those songs where we wanted to do justice to the lyrics." I think its safe to say the band did just that as it has become a classic in the Rush cannon.

Next up is "The Spirit of Radio". It is interesting to note a song that was meant as a criticism of rock radio eventually became one of their most commercially successful tunes. Says Geddy Lee "Here it was a radio hit and we're criticizing the very construct. Criticizing the man and the man's making it into a hit." And Lee points out "During that period when the song was released radio was very programmed….DJs had no freedom." Which of course is still the case today. This has always been one of my favourites and is one of those songs that flows beautifully between sections that at first listen seem unrelated musically but all make perfect sense when taken as a whole. Great song.

Another song for the ages is "Tom Sawyer" off their classic album Moving Pictures. A song that clearly has a connection with fans. Throughout a person's life certain songs become more important. For me "Tom Sawyer" is one of those songs. You know how sometimes it seems as if a song is specifically written for you in mind. Of course that is not the case as Geddy reiterates. "In our minds these songs are all written for us and played the way we want to play them. Its not catered to anybody's musical ability or anything like that other than us." I suppose that is true of Rush's entire career. They chose to do it their way and made their own path never catering to the 'powers that be'.

The track "Subdivisions" from Signals is next on the list. If you have ever felt alienated and alone and wished for something more you can probably identify with Peart's lyrics. Have you ever wanted to leave your old life behind and make a fresh start? Says Geddy "The song is just about that experience and how difficult it is growing up in a bland environment...Not fitting in. I mean we were all misfits in a way." A killer track and one of Rush's most memorable synth lines ever recorded.

The last song is "Limelight" taken from Moving Pictures. A fan favourite in concert and one that speaks about Neil's struggles with success and not feeling all that comfortable with being in the limelight. Another one of those songs that drips with emotion – everything from Geddy's fantastic interpretation of Peart's lyrics to Lifeson's heavy rhythms.

It is about time Rush were recognized for their incredible talent as musicians and songwriters. I don't know any other band more deserving. Congratulations guys, you have clearly paid your dues. Now if only the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would get their heads out of their you know what and come to their senses regarding progressive music will Rush be truly vindicated along with many other bands that have not gotten their just reward. Only time will tell….

Laurie Brown. "Rush in Conversation With Laurie Brown" CBC, March 19, 2010. http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/More_Shows/Radio/A_Conversation_with_Rush/ID=1445449710
  

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