Rush to riches: Why kids today should know the name Rush

To today’s millennials and children, the name “Tom Sawyer” is just an old book. But to those in Gen X and many ‘80s rock n’ roll fanatics, “Tom Sawyer” is the most popular song in a band that brought life and words to a time now underappreciated by most young people.

Rush is a famous Canadian rock band that was popularized in the early 1970s and late 1980s. Its most popular lineup was a power-trio consisting of Geddy Lee on bass and vocals, Alex Lifeson on guitar and Neil Peart as both percussionist and lyricist. Their first claims to fame came in 1975, 1976 and 1977 with their albums Fly by Night, 2112 and A Farewell to Kings respectively. Their popularity continued throughout the following decades, mostly in the US, UK and their home Canada. In this time, they produced even more hit studio albums, including Moving Pictures in 1980, Grace Under Pressure in 1984 and Counterparts in 1994.  

The band continued releasing hit album after hit album, touring both North America and Europe including Scandinavia, until their 5 year hiatus began in 1997. The trio reassembled in 2001, and continued touring and releasing, with 3 new albums and 7 live ones, concluding with their R40 live tour in celebration of the band’s 40th year anniversary in 2015. They stopped touring after that, and it’s assumed that there will never be another Rush song released after the R40 album. 

The last live performance Rush did was a performance of Closer to the Heart when they were introduced as special guests at the South Park: The 25th Anniversary Concert on Aug. 10, 2022. As of Jan. 20, this is any Rush members’ last live performance anywhere in the world.

During the power trio’s rise and peak, every member of the band brought something to the table from the time they joined until the very end. Lead guitarist and backing vocalist Alex Lifeson, (which was his professional name), was the longest running Rush member along with being its co-founder. His importance in the band, aside from his incredible skill as a lead guitarist, was his longevity in the band, being its only member to perform for every album. The lead singer for Rush along with being a lead bassist and keyboardist was Geddy Lee. He was the main face of the band, sang most of its songs, and was there for nearly its entirety. His main importance in Rush was, much like Lifeson, his skills on the guitar and how long he stayed with the group, but stood out because of his incredible vocals. However, the title for most influential member of Rush, in my opinion, has to go to Neil Peart.

Neil Peart was the drummer of the power-trio and has been called one of the greatest drummers to walk on this Earth. Not only did he understand patterns in percussion and flowed between different time signatures effortlessly, but he had an amazing range of instruments on his giant drum kit. Aside from regular drums, he began experimenting with electronic instruments later in the band’s life, playing temple blocks on songs like The Trees, tubular bells in Closer to the Heart, and crotales (tiny metal discs) in YYZ (pronounced Y-Y-Zed).

Aerial shot of Neil Peart’s drum kit (John Arrowsmith)

“[Rush] were prog-rock giants of the 1980s…they’re a band that evolved. They came out of…kinda mythology in the early albums; more grandiose kinda stuff. And then in the end they became more of a hard rock band…They sort of [constantly] reinvented themselves, so they were always fresh, so they never, to me, got boring,” Science teacher Michael Beeftink said.

“They produced the incredible sound that they have with only three members. They had an incredibly high quality sound…phenomenal at producing the unique music they produced. It was kind of in its own category of music. They [even] did a good job of addressing issues of the time. They would lace through in their music things that people cared about. I think if you enjoy any kind of rock-n’-roll music…I think you should at least have heard of Rush. They did something that I don’t know that anybody else since then or before has quite done,” Math teacher Sean Delahanty said.

With hip-hop and rap on the rise, it may be safe to say that songs like those from Rush may soon be forgotten by future generations. That’s why it’s important to look back at older music and embrace it as you do with the new. While other ‘80s bands like Queen and The Beatles have made their names known to everyone around the world, there’s no reason anyone should ignore the influence of the underdogs that didn’t get the same kind of fame. Your best friends, siblings, and classmates may know who The Beatles are, but your teachers remember Rush and who they were.