Geddy Lee has become synonymous with the bass in a way that’s usually only reserved for lead guitarists and their instruments. But, unlike any band before them, the group put Lee’s melodic basslines front and centre. With that said, what made Rush so special was that all three group members all pulled their equal weight, which led to delicious results.
The band were never the Geddy Lee show, despite him being their frontman. It wasn’t about him, nor was it about powerhouse drummer Neil Peart or the wizardry of Alex Lifeson on guitar. The reason you came to see a Rush show was the magic that happened when they joined forces.
Since the sad death of Neil Peart in 2020, Rush hung up their hats and decided to call it a day. It wouldn’t be Rush if it weren’t for the three of them on stage together, and even though they are no longer active, that doesn’t mean that the surviving members aren’t prepared to speak about the group.
Rush’s supreme prog-rock skills allowed the Canadian trio to triumph as one of the most dynamic and well-skilled bands around. As decades passed, those fans became even more steadfast in their adoration for the group. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Geddy Lee looked back at five of their most-loved songs and detailed the stories behind them, which gives a glaring insight into how Rush functioned.
Geddy Lee on Rush’s best songs
Ask any Rush fan about their favourite songs by the group, and you’re likely to hear ‘2112’ in the conversation. The title track from their 1976 album is an effort that remained a staple of their live performance ever since, ranking among the finest Rush compositions around.
“We thought we were really smart. [Rush] couldn’t do that now, because [we’re] not armed with the same naiveté. That naiveté makes you a bit more audacious — and great art comes from audacity. When writing a book in science fiction, there are no rules.
“You can make any shit up you want. The same thing goes for us musically. You can use all kinds of sounds and it all can be rationalized by the story that you’re telling that’s set in a different time-space continuum.”
‘Roll The Bones’
In 1991, Rush decided to experiment, and chief songwriter, Neil Peart, took influence by the burgeoning hip hop scene to write the lyrics for ‘Roll The Bones’. It’s not a hip hop song by any stretch of the imagination and is very much still a classic Rush effort, which is adored by their rabid fanbase.
Speaking about the track, Lee said: “We were looking for something that felt different and were trying to find a funk vibe — you know, a white Canadian funk vibe, not an actual real funk vibe. Then Neil came in with this crazy rap he’d written, which was very angular and not very rap-like rap.
He added: “We looked at comedians, to just have fun with it. We talked about John Cleese at one point. In the end, none of those ideas stuck and we just decided to electronically de-tune my voice, with me doing the rap but sounding like some sort of cyborg. When we released it, some rock stations wouldn’t play it because it had a rap in it. There is really nothing rap about that song.”
‘Losing It’ is the penultimate track from Rush’s phenomenal 1982 masterpiece, Signals. Yet again, this originated with a wild idea from Neil Peart that the band brought to life beautifully.
The bassist revealed: “Neil had this lyric bout how tough it is when someone who has been at the top of their game starts to lose their ability to reproduce that. So we wrote this melodic, melancholy tune.
“Ben went to town on it. He plays electric violin the way Jeff Beck plays guitar,” Lee added. “Since we had been on tour with a string ensemble last year, the idea of bringing an extra person on stage wasn’t foreign anymore.”
The song famously took on a second lease of life after its use in the Paul Rudd and Jason Segel film I Love You, Man, which spread the word of Rush to a new generation. This song was their first taste of the band for a whole wave of people, and the spellbinding track instantly hooked them.
“There was some doubt as to whether it would even go on the record at one point, because we struggled with it for a long time,” Lee noted. “[Engineer] Paul [Northfield] came up with this weird way of mic-ing [Al’s] amp that created that super interesting ambient sound.
“That’s really when the song took off. There’s always a track that just drives you effing crazy, and that was the one on [1981’s Moving Pictures]. I never thought it would end up being the most popular song we’ve ever written.”
‘YYZ’ is the perfect example of Rush’s brilliance and sees Lee steal the show with his bass performance that is arguably his finest moment on a four-string. The track, which featured on the band’s 1981 album Moving Pictures, wouldn’t take long before the number became a real live favourite among the group’s avid, growing fanbase.
Lee stated: “Neil and I started jamming and he came up with this Morse code rhythm. I ended up writing the skeleton of the song on bass and drums. Then Al came in and added his parts and the thing blossomed.”