One of the unfortunate Google search results occurs when you want to do a search to find out information on a legendary Canadian rock band that has a lasting appeal called Rush. The unfortunate part is the name is associated with a bombastic provocateur in the US who stirs up radio ratings by stirring up his loyal fan base. I have listened to the latter on enough occasions to know his opinions do not often coincide with the facts, but that is not his intent. The former is someone worth listening to as the music and lyrics have a wonderful nexus with Rush’s three outstanding performers – Neil Peart (the drummer and significant songwriter), Alex Lifeson (the terrific lead guitarist) and Geddy Lee (the lead singer, bassist and keyboardist).
This Rush had a hard time gaining popularity which is part of their lasting appeal. Neil Peart, who may be the finest living drummer, was not even the band’s original drummer, who was John Rutsey through the first album. Two things stood out at first. Geddy Lee’s unusually high voice caught many off guard and he was subject to some very unfair criticism early on. The other is how three people can make so much powerful music by themselves. When I see them in concert, I have to step back and say this is coming from only three people. They have to be wearing themselves out. Especially, when they play a large part of their body of work in concert. It wears everyone out and you leave the concert totally spent, not unlike you do at a Bruce Springsteen concert.
Those who have read my earlier posts on music know I have affinity for meaningful lyrics. The music has to be good as well, but I truly appreciate words that live when the music is not being played. Rush does not disappoint you when you read their words. As before, I won’t necessarily highlight the songs that get the most airplay, although some of the ones I note below were hits. My thrust is to give you a taste of a few lyrics that resonate with me and set you on a journey of your own reflections or fact-finding.
Just today I was thinking of a Rush song when my Aussie friend Judy wrote on her blog http://www.raisingthecurtain.net about not conforming and appreciating the ability to accessorize life. “Subdivisions” speaks to this, especially to teens in high school who have not learned to deal as well with the eclectic. My favorite lyric from the song is, as follows, as Lee sings of the pressure to conform.
“In the high school halls. In the shopping malls. Conform or be cast out.”
In the song “Closer to the Heart,” the words do not reflect your initial thoughts about what the song is all about. The song is chastising governments for not being better examples of promoting harmony as do countless numbers of workers who find ways to work together. This seems to hold true still today. A key lyric to me is:
“And men who hold high places must be the ones to start to mold a new reality.”
Saying it another way, we need our leaders to lead. Yet, the workers get it when Lee sings about dividing up roles:
“You can be the captain, I will draw the chart, sailing into destiny, closer to the heart.”
Another song my daughter and I like together is “The Trees.” This one did not get as much airplay, but its words are symbolic to us. To many, the song is a metaphor of how we/ they-ism can destroy the world, in this case the forest. A few lyrics might help:
“There is unrest in the forest. There is trouble with the trees. For the Maples want more sunlight. And the Oaks ignore their pleas.”
Let the conservative radio jockey chew on this one for a while as you think about our global and US poverty situation.
One of their lesser out front rock tunes is called “New World Man.” I like the lyrics of this song a great deal as the new world man cares more about money and self than doing the right thing. To me, this ties into the above lyrics about “The Trees.” Here are two examples:
“He’s noble enough to know what’s right. But weak enough not to choose it.”
“He’s noble enough to win the world. But weak enough to lose it.”
The next to last song I will highlight, my daughter did a project on in middle school. The teacher was very impressed with her work on “Limelight.” To me, this song starts out talking about the desire of being in the limelight, but it ends with lyrics that reference how each of us play a role to various people we encounter on a daily basis. To illustrate:
“All the world’s indeed a stage. And we are merely players. Performers and portrayer. Each another’s audience outside the gilded cage.”
Rush’s body of work is very impressive and if you ask Rush fans their favorite songs, you will get a wide list of responses. Most people would include “Freewill,” “Tom Sawyer,” “Working Man,” “Spirit of Radio,” “Fly by Night,” and “Time Stand Still” to name only a few. You will also find passion behind people’s choices which is great. And, on this issue of choice, I will close with one of their most famous lines from “Freewill.”
“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
This lyric speaks volumes to me and many others. Sometimes we take what life hands us. We make a choice to not do something to alter that occurrence. To me, we should make more conscious choices and either succeed or fail trying. The old line is “It is better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all” seems to compare favorably with this line.
So, if you have never given this Rush a good listen, I would encourage you to choose to do so. If you have, please share your favorites and why. I am eager to hear your thoughts.