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Credit: Enrico Frangi

Music

How Ayn Rand influence a classic Rush song

@TomTaylorFO

It’s a cliché in the world of music that the drummer is, ahem, the least well-read member of the band, to put it mildly. Fortunately, for the sticksmiths who have been beleaguered by this trope since time immemorial, Rush’s late thunderous groove engine, Neil Peart, wedged his nose in a hefty tome of texts to disavow the prejudice for good.

It is notable in Peart’s case, that he was also the lyricist for Rush which represents a fairly rare double act in music. In order to keep his quill sharp so to speak, the drumming extraordinaire was forever delving into books and prising any wisdom that he could. Some ardent Rush fans might already know, Peart’s personal favourite happened to be the Russian-born American writer Ayn Rand.

One book, in particular, proved heavily influential on Peart and co when they were crafting 2112, their fourth studio album. In fact, Peart even gave a written credit to Rand in the liner notes. Her dystopian novella Anthem was transposed faithfully for the prog-rock epic and the prose particularly rings true on the album’s amorphous 20-minute title track. 

The description for the seminal novel reads as follows: “They existed only to serve the state. They were conceived in controlled Palaces of Mating. They died in the Home of the Useless. From cradle to grave, the crowd was one–the great WE.” 

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Continuing: “In all that was left of humanity there was only one man who dared to think, seek, and love. He lived in the dark ages of the future. In a loveless world, he dared to love the woman of his choice. In an age that had lost all trace of science and civilization, he had the courage to seek and find knowledge. But these were not the crimes for which he would be hunted. He was marked for death because he had committed the unpardonable sin: He had stood forth from the mindless human herd. He was a man alone. He had rediscovered the lost and holy word–I.”

Rand’s bold and controversial philosophy of loving thyself before thy neighbour is one that has stirred many opinions over the years and her provocative prose captured Peart’s imagination too. As Rand put her philosophy herself: “I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals, and I loathe humanity, for its failure to live up to these possibilities.”

In the eight-movement piece, the band would lay down a musical philosophy of their own. Alex Lifeson would later reflect on the moment Peart presented the lyrics for ‘2112’ in an interview with Rolling Stone: “I thought they were very serious. He was reading some Ayn Rand at the time. I was not a big Ayn Rand fan; I read Anthem — I think that was the only book of hers I’ve read. Neil and Geddy read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and that was an inspiration,” he recalled.

Adding: “What appealed to us was what she wrote about the individual and the freedom to work the way you want to work, not the cold, libertarian perspective. For us, it was striving to be a stronger individual more than anything, and that’s how the story came together.”

Before concluding: “I don’t recall exactly the conversations we had, but I’m sure Neil pointed out that this is a similar story to her stories of finding something that’s beautiful and developing it, learning to share it, crafting it and then being shut down by ‘The Man.’ It was our protest album.”