Rush is a Canadian rock band comprised of bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Geddy Lee (formerly Gary Weinrib), guitarist Alex Lifeson (real name Alexander Zivojinovich), and drummer Neil Peart (pronounced: 'Peert') who recorded their first album in 1974. The band was formed in the summer of 1968, in Sarnia by Lifeson, Lee, and John Rutsey (who played drums for Rush on the first album but resigned for health concerns). They soon moved to Toronto to further their career. Peart joined in 1974, to complete the present lineup. Lee and Lifeson usually write the music and Peart writes the lyrics, although every once in a while they will collaborate on lyrics or music.
Rush has been awarded the Juno Award (Canada's equivalent of the Grammy Award) on numerous occasions. Additionally, Lee, Lifeson, and Peart are all Officers of the Order of Canada.
Rush's musical style has changed substantially over the lifetime of the group. Their debut album is somewhat derivative of the British rock band Led Zeppelin, but over the first few albums their style progressed eclectically, influenced by the British progressive rock movement in particular, but maintaining a hard rock ethos at its core. The lyrics of that time were heavily influenced by science fiction and, in a few cases, the writings and philosophy of Ayn Rand, as exhibited most prominently by 1975's Anthem (named after Rand's novel) 1976's 2112 and 1978's Hemispheres. Many of their early songs received limited airplay because of their extended length (in some cases exceeding ten minutes) which were deemed unprofitable by station managers. One notable exception was the 3-minute "Closer To The Heart" from their 1977 album A Farewell To Kings, which was played widely on Canadian radio.
1980's Permanent Waves changed things dramatically. Rush felt they had taken the genre of lengthy, progressive-influenced music as far as they could or wanted, and began to opt for shorter, more compact, less grandiose compositions. Although a hard rock style was still evident, more and more keyboards were introduced. Lyrical themes changed markedly, beginning to rely much less on science-fiction imagery.
At this point, Rush began to receive frequent airtime on rock radio stations. As a result, Permanent Waves cracked Billboard's Top 10 and went platinum. One song in particular, "The Spirit of Radio" (named for the Toronto-local groundbreaking radio station, CFNY), went on to become a huge hit on the alternative circuit.
Rush's popularity hit its zenith with the release of Moving Pictures in 1981. The lead track, "Tom Sawyer", is perhaps the band's best known song, and Geddy Lee has referred to it as "the quintessential Rush song." Moving Pictures shot up to #3 on the Billboard Album Chart and has been certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). "Tom Sawyer" can be heard frequently on American classic rock stations to this day. From that point on, their albums of the 1980s tended to incorporate more keyboards and stuck to accessible style that began with Permanent Waves, even to the point that their recordings in the later 1980s and 1990s have sometimes been derided as being too mainstream. After the "synthesizer period" of 1982-1991, the band largely dropped keyboards from their studio recordings in favor of a guitar-dominated style, beginning with the well-received 1993 album Counterparts.
Each of the three individual artists has produced and released work independent of the band's structure, to varying degrees of commercial and critical success.
After 1996's Test for Echo, the band entered a six-year hiatus due mainly to personal tragedies in Peart's life. Peart's daughter Selena died in a car accident in August 1997, followed by his wife Jacqueline's death from cancer in June 1998. Peart embarked on a self-described "healing journey" by motorcycle in which he travelled thousands of kilometers across North America. He subsequently wrote about his travels in his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. Rush later said that they came very close to disbanding during this period.
The band returned in 2002 with a surprisingly heavy and modern Vapor Trails album. The album contains the song "Ghost Rider", describing Peart's motorcycle journey. It debuted to moderate praise and was supported by the band's first tour in six years, including first-ever concerts in Mexico City and Brazil.
The band was one of a number of hometown favourites to play the SARS relief concert (dubbed SARStock) at Downsview Park in Toronto in August 2003, with an attendance of over half a million people. Also in 2003, Alex Lifeson appeared in the highly successful Canadian mockumentary Trailer Park Boys. Rush also played for CBC's 2004 tsunami relief telethon, along with Ed Robertson (of the Barenaked Ladies) and Mike Smith (Bubbles) from Trailer Park Boys.
A live album, Rush in Rio, was released in late October 2003. The DVD which it accompanied won the 2004 Juno for best music DVD. June 2004 saw the release of Feedback, a studio EP featuring eight covers of such artists as Cream and The Who. In the summer of 2004, Rush again hit the road for a successful 30th Anniversary Tour, playing dates in the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. According to a May 2005 interview with Lee, the band plans to go back into the studio to record a new album beginning in late 2005.
Rush was nominated for a Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammy Award in 2005 for Neil Peart's drum solo, “O Baterista” (portuguese for The Drummer) from the album Rush in Rio, but lost to Brian Wilson's "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow". The band has so far had three Grammy Award nominations, all for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Debate
Rush themselves have noted that people "either love Rush or hate Rush", resulting in strong detractors and an intensely loyal fan base. Despite having completely dropped out of the public eye for five years following Peart's loss of his wife and daughter, and the band's being relegated almost solely to classic rock stations in the U.S., the 2002 Vapor Trails release shot up to #6 on the Billboard Chart in its first week of release. The subsequent Vapor Trails tour grossed over $24 million and included the largest audience ever to see a Rush show - 60,000 fans in São Paulo. The following year, the band released Rush in Rio, which the RIAA has certified gold, marking the fourth decade in which a Rush album had been released and certified at least gold.
With such a fan base, it is not surprising that they were not pleased to learn that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame passed over Rush for induction in 1999, Rush's first year of eligibility. Since that time, the Hall of Fame has not nominated Rush for induction, causing more and more frustration as time goes by. The debate has become one of the hot debates involving the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as fans clamour extensively for the band's induction while the Hall of Fame voters steadfastly refuse. At one point, in an ESPN.com article introducing basketball star LeBron James to Cleveland just before James' rookie season in 2004, the writer suggested James be up to speed on the latest rumblings from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: "U2-definitely yes, REM-maybe, Rush-definitely no."
Some of Rush's detractors associate the band with the progressive rock era of the 1970s, which they view as overblown and pretentious. Rush's supporters note that their music was only of the true "prog" school from 1975-1979, a small portion of their thirty year history. Additionally, these supporters note, Rush has influenced countless musicians and bands, from inspiring numerous people to learn to play their instruments to bands that have openly declared such influence, notably Metallica, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Primus.