“Music is all about wanting to be better at it.” – Geddy Lee
Geddy Lee, the now-iconic Canadian artist who earned fame as the lead vocalist and bassist of legendary rock group Rush, is revered by many as one of the greatest musicians on the planet.
Lee, who made the decision to join Rush in 1968, was invited into the fold by his childhood friend, Alex Lifeson, replacing the original bassist and frontman Jeff Jones in what marked the first major foundations of a prog-rock behemoth.
Alongside his bandmates, guitarist Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, Lee and Rush would change the face of alternative music as we know it today, inspiring and influencing countless bands and artists that would flourish in the scene built by the pioneering outfit. Active for 50 years, Rush eventually called it a day in 2018 after Lifeson confirmed that the band would not be working together any longer.
Having formed in 1968, it wouldn’t be until March 1974 when Rush released their eponymous debut album. From that moment on, the band pushed forward with prolific accuracy, releasing 19 studio albums, 11 live albums, 11 compilation records, and countless hit singles. Achieving critical acclaim immediately and cult legend status later, Rush can now celebrate 24 certified gold records and 14 platinum records in unprecedented success.
In fact, to put their achievements into context, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), only cultural icons The Beatles and The Rolling Stones sit ahead of Rush in terms of record sales by a rock band. Considering the ride that Rush has been on, the material they have released, it seems near-impossible to narrow down their extensive back catalogue to a list of 20. However, Geddy Lee has never been afraid of a challenge.
Since the band called it quits, Lee and Lifeson have had a lot of time to reflect on their impact. Lee, sitting down with The Guardian, found time to categorise a selection of songs that feels best represents their body of work. “I miss playing with Rush,” Lee began. “I don’t miss travelling with Rush. I miss being on stage with those guys because it was a singular honour to me. I’m sure I will play live again one day, but it will never replace that intensity of what a three-hour Rush show was like to perform: it challenged me to my max and that’s rare in this life,” he added.
After rolling through hits such as ‘Finding My Way’, ‘The Spirit Of Radio’, ‘The Big Money’, ‘Far Cry’ and more to fill up his collection of favourite songs, the conversation turned to ‘Tom Sawyer’, a track that Lee didn’t even want to include as his favourite: “But how could I not? It changed our lives,” he explained. While the song was loved by fans, it is in recent times that ‘Tom Sawyer’ has undergone somewhat of a renaissance, featuring in the popular movie I Love You, Man starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel.
“When [the director] John Hamburg approached us about it, our instincts were to say no,” Lee explained. “But we were going through a phase where we decided to take the George Costanza approach to our career. We decided that anything we were going to say no to instinctively, we would now say yes to. It served us very well.”
Elsewhere, when discussing the inclusion of ‘Working Man’, Lee explained: “It was my favourite song to play every night, and that’s why I wanted to include the live version.” The specific version chosen by Lee rounds off his collection perfectly, a recording taken from their final ever show: “Neil was pretty adamant it was, and he played it like it was going to be the final show,” Lee explained of the moment. “And that’s why he actually left the drum throne and came out and gave us a hug on stage, which he swore he would never do. I guess I was a bit of an optimist. But nope. I think Alex accepted it more as the end. I thought we really killed it that night, but it was hard to tell because it got really emotional in the last 20 minutes. That’s the first time I ever got choked up at a microphone. So I guess a part of me knew.”
See the full list of Geddy Lee’s favourites below.
Geddy Lee’s 20 favourite Rush songs:
- ‘Finding My Way’
- ‘2112: Overture / The Temples Of Syrinx / Discovery’
- ‘La Villa Strangiato’
- ‘The Spirit Of Radio’
- ‘Tom Sawyer’
- ‘Between The Wheels’
- ‘The Big Money’
- ‘The Pass’
- ‘Roll the Bones’
- ‘Grace to Grace’
- ‘One Little Victory’
- ‘Far Cry’
- ‘Headlong Flight’
- ‘The Garden’
- ‘What You’re Doing / Working Man – Medley / Live R40 Tour’