Geddy Lee of Rush Making Music
Geddy Lee of Rush in concert.
Geddy Lee of Rush Making Music
by Marcie Somers
Originally posted July 4, 2007.
Geddy Lee, the legendary frontman of Canadian band Rush, has long been hailed as one of the greatest bass players in rock ‘n’ roll history. An award winning musician, Lee’s style, technique and skill on the bass guitar, along with his trademark vocal style has left a lasting impression with music fans around the world. Over the past thirty-years, Lee and his bandmates, Neal Peart and Alex Lifeson, have released 24 albums; 23 of which have gone gold. They have also had 14 platinum (3 multi-platinum) records, making them one of the best-selling rock bands in history, placing them fifth behind The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, KISS and Aerosmith for the most consecutive gold and platinum albums by a rock band.
As the lead singer in a band, one would expect Lee to be a “showman”, however in person Lee is extremely soft spoken, so much so, that at times his voice is barely above a whisper. Humble and modest, when asked about being called one of the greatest bass players in the world, he quips, “That’s because there aren’t many of us.” After a moment’s laughter he continues, “Maybe it’s typical of Jewish kids. There are a lot of Jewish catchers in major league baseball and I often joke it’s because no one wants to be a catcher, so it’s the quickest route to being in the major leagues. Maybe being a bass player was my route to being in the major leagues.”
Born and raised in Toronto, Lee’s foray into the music industry as a bass player began as “a typical suburban story.” “My friends and I were into music, so a few of us got together and started playing. No one wanted to be the bass player, so they pointed at me and said ‘you play bass’ and I went ‘okay’ and that was the big decision.” Lee and his friends began to play for fun, but it wasn’t until he was 16, when he started playing in his friend Alex Lifeson’s band Rush, that he began to take music seriously.
Their first show together is something Lee remembers fondly. “We were scheduled to play at a local church drop in centre. We jammed for a few hours beforehand and figured out the six or seven songs we cold play. After the show, we each got $7 after we paid our expenses, so we went to the local deli and had French fries with gravy. After that night, we decided to take ourselves and music very seriously.”
The next couple of years in high school were very difficult for Lee. As the band became more proficient and began making a reputation for themselves, the shows became more frequent, eventually forcing Lee to make a decision; stay in school or make music a full-time career. “Anywhere there was a gig, we would do it. This meant traveling to ‘far-away’ places like SmithsFalls, which meant that in order to make it on time, we would have to skip off school in the afternoon. And because they were at night, it was hard for me to get up in the morning to go to school. It was very distressing for my mom, because she didn’t really understand what I was doing.”
It was finally with the help of his high school guidance counselor, Mr. Woodhouse, who Lee credits as playing a pivotal role in his life, who helped steer the young Lee towards his destiny. “Mr. Woodhouse was great. He did everything in his power to get me to stay in school. He arranged all of my classes to be in the morning, so I would be done by 2pm. He also allowed me to drop any meaningful subjects that would require a lot of work, so I wound up taking Theatre Arts, Screen Arts, History and English. Still in the end, he eventually told me that I was waffling and would have to make a decision. I decided to quit school and there began the start of my professional music career.”