So few bands deserve to be called legendary. But Rush is arguably one of them. Now known for their musicianship, complex compositions and eclectic lyrics that draw heavily on science fiction and philosophy, Rush first burst out of Canada in the early 1970s with one of the most powerful and bombastic sounds of the time. And the world has listened ever since: Rush’s total global album sales are estimated at more than 40 million units. The group has been awarded 24 gold, 14 platinum and 3 multi-platinum albums. That ranks them third – behind The Beatles and the Rolling Stones – on the all-time list for most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band.
The group formed in 1968 in Toronto and went through several reconfigurations before locking down its current line-up in 1974: bassist, keyboardist and lead vocalist Geddy Lee; guitarist and backing vocalist Alex Lifeson; and drummer, percussionist and lyricist Neil Peart. Each member has been acknowledged as one of the most proficient players on their respective instruments, and each has won countless awards in magazine readers’ polls.
The band’s musical style has morphed several times over the years, from a blues-inspired hard rock beginning, later moving into progressive rock, and including a period marked by heavy use of synthesizers. Regardless of sound experimentation – or perhaps because of it – Rush has amassed a hard-core following of fans, due in large part to their concerts. The band members are perfectionists who share a strong work ethic, and they continually strive to accurately recreate songs from their albums in their live performances. And their fans cannot get enough.
In 1974, Rush released its first (self-titled) album. It soon became the biggest selling debut from any Canadian band and brought with it the first of dozens of JUNO Award nominations. The album’s song, “Working Man” was the band’s first break-out hit in the U.S.
The breakthrough south of the border was solidified in 1976 with the album, 2112. It was the band’s first taste of commercial success and their first platinum album in Canada. The following two albums grew even more intricate and obscure. Not exactly buzzwords for their record label, which was urging Rush to explore more accessible, commercially friendly music. That approach didn’t come until 1980 with the release of Permanent Waves, which featured reggae and new wave overtures, as well as shorter, radio-friendly hits, including, “The Spirit of the Radio” and “Freewill.” There was no looking back. Since then, Rush has shown a phenomenal propensity for both national and international success, recognition, awards, sold-out shows, and silver, gold and platinum certifications.
After a foray into synthesizer-laden music in the’80s, Rush returned to a guitar-driven hard rock sound in the early 1990s, which has continued to the present. The band’s latest studio album, Clockwork Angels (2012) won the Album Of The Year Award from the Progressive Music Awards.
Rush has clearly influenced innumerable artists – Primus, Queensryche and Smashing Pumpkins to name just a few. Individually, the members are perennial winners of readers’ polls in magazines such as Modern Drummer, Guitar Player and Playboy, among others. Perhaps the most intriguing accolade that has been bestowed upon this trio was the declaration in 1993 by Harvard Lampoon, the world’s oldest humor magazine, that the members of Rush were the “Musicians of the Millennium.”
Despite all the acclaim, the members of Rush have displayed a remarkable capacity to keep their lives private, completely avoiding the typical scandals, rumors and innuendo that invariably follow too many celebrities. Instead, the band devotes a great deal of time, energy and money to a wide array of charitable efforts. From playing disaster-relief benefit concerts to making generous donations to the United Way and AIDS research, Rush have decades of philanthropy to their name. In 2015 the band’s charitable work was recognized as they were bestowed the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award.
Musically, Rush has always been an enigma. In a world of three-chord heavy rock, the group’s real peers are likely in the arena of fusion jazz, although their roots are early-to-mid-’70s Led Zeppelin and post-psychedelic “prog-rock.” And although the band stopped large scale touring in 2015 – they haven’t ruled out the possibility of future studio albums and smaller-scale tours, to the collective relief of their legions of fans – Rush’s legacy as a true game-changing rock band lives on.
The band formed in Toronto
“Working Man” was the band’s break out hit in the U.S.
“The Spirit of Radio” released in 1980, inspired by Toronto radio station CFNY’s slogan, became their biggest UK chart hit, reaching No. 13.
Inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame
Clockwork Angels, which both debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200, selling about 93,000 its first week of release.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Received Allan Waters Humanitarian Award