top of page

Geddy Lee

Geddy Lee.jpg

Photo Credit: Geddy Lee, My Effin Life

It seems a small thing to say that when RUSH showed up it was a dynamic force in Rock music. They are a world renown name in rock due to their innovative sound and musicianship. It is no small feat to pack an arena at 60,000 with everyone standing, singing your music. At that point, it is an overwhelming acceptance that the band brings an experience that can't be denied.

My own experience as a teenager was six of us squeezed into a car, driving from Miami up to Hollywood, Florida on this very dark (swamp on left side, land on right) road called Chrome Avenue. Yet the sound of RUSH was magnetic, and we had to maybe witness it live to understand more about what we heard on the radio.


The drums were impeccable, the music they wrote seemed like it was of some otherworld. We drove miles, about forty-five minutes, an ominous road to some arena out in a big field. The Hollywood Sportatorium was not glamorous! Rusted, older, it never felt all that safe, weed smog everywhere, yet hearing this band and their rock music was all we wanted to experience. That energy. " likes to believe in the power of music..." (Spirit of Radio)

Arena peeps seized our purses, checked them with that pen that quite honestly could just be fake, you never know. It could happen. Next, we were onto our seats. Were there seats if you had floor seating? I asked some friends recently and we seem to remember that after about an hour, seats were more useful to stand on top of. No, really, we even balanced on the backs of the seat backs, and you just wound up like a sardine high above, smushed against someone else, all of you collectively leaning in toward the stage. No order, really. Cheering and enamored by the band ya heard.


On this night, I wasn't that way. I stopped while balancing on the chair top. Stunned by the sound of them, I just shut up and listen. I was not about to sing along with this particular band. The solid musicianship was from something greater than what my ears had heard live before. Neil Peart's drum solo was precision and feel to the max. I kept trying to even calculate the how. It was crafted, a rock musician had crafted this like maybe Mozart did? It just seemed artful beyond measure.


I had loved Led Zeppelin, yet had never gotten to hear Bonham live, I can imagine it would have been like this particular night. This was another dimension, adding multi-layered textures and I tried to watch the coordination. Such technicolored sound layers! My friend asked me what was wrong with me, and I didn't bother explaining how I just wanted to experience this band fully. 

That night I understood more about how music was a collective, spiritual thing. These three guys on stage made it seem like they were about five or six people in sound. Geddy on bass and his voice and the lyrics, as well as how he had to do intricate bass lines, sing sophisticated lyrics, and the complex song form. Variations, subdivide, wait, now this section is half time, then sixteenth it man, pedal to the medal! This was an exploration and journey.  Creating it had to be wild. Performing it had to be precise. The magnitude of crafting, and Geddy's voice beckoning in his high register. Wide-eyed, my friends and I just looked at each other. Everyone knew it was a new direction in Rock music.

Singer, Geddy Lee is a Canadian musician and songwriter, bassist, and keyboardist for this Canadian rock group, RUSH. He joined in September 1968, at the request of his childhood friend and guitarist Alex Lifeson.

An award-winning musician, Lee’s style, technique, and skill on the bass guitar have inspired many rock musicians. In addition to his composing, arranging, and performing with RUSH, he has released a solo record, My Favourite Headache, in 2000.

Along with his RUSH bandmates — guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart — Lee was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on May 9, 1996. The band also received the highest artistic honor in Canada by the Governor General in 2012 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. He was also given an honorary Doctor of Music in 2014 by Nipissing University. RUSH has won seven Grammy Awards, several Juno Awards, and won an International Achievement Award at the 2009 SOCAN Awards. The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994

Geddy Lee is also the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass. The book is Geddy's personal collection of vintage electric bass guitars, dating from the 1950's to the 1980's.

Lee supports many causes through personal and band donations. He is known as an avid baseball fan and wine connoisseur.

Lee has been married to Nancy Young for over 35 years and they have 2 children. HIs new book, My Effin' Life is a deeply moving account of his parents survival from the Auschwitz concentration camp in Germany during WW II, and his memories of growing up in Toronto, Canada, in the suburbs. He goes on to share how he met the bandmembers and their journey, as well as the untimely death of Neil Peart a few years ago, and the special bond he and Alex had with him. I highly recommend this endearing memoir. It was an honor to ask this rock legend some questions about the band and himself.  

By Abbe Davis, February 2024

Abbe:  First of all here is an unexpected story from this past Friday about your RUSH beer out of Toronto. Our second guitarist was traveling, he showed up from travels at a gig we were doing, and he had a case of RUSH beer and, we were so busy we didn’t think, US bar, etc.  So of course, our engineer and one guy in the band decide to drink one of the beers. I had no idea this was going on, I was singing and doing our songs. By the last set of ours, we get on stage, and the club owner shows up, comes at us about "drinking RUSH beer, how could all of you drink it on stage?" (we did not) and "get off of the stage, you are now not allowed to do your last set, (he let us once I explained- as he is ignoring me confiscating all cans). I just wanna say, my guitarist is pretty obsessed with this beer. I don’t drink beer, yet I assume it is great beer, so then, why aren’t you selling it in the US, when it seems to be an excellent beer?

Geddy:  Really?  That's a first for me.  I've never heard of such a thing.  That's petty.  Why didn't the guy just come over, and whisper to you guys, "Hey, I see you're drinking some REALLY COOL beer and the cans are REALLY amazing looking too.  How about you go put those in your gig bag or the car because you really can't bring those into this pub."  Wouldn't that have been the logical way to deal with this?  Give me the guy's number.  I'll call him and let him have it.  And, give me your address.  I'll have a few cases shipped your way. 


Abbe:  Congratulations on your memoir, My Effing Life, Throughout the book, you never drop the F-bomb, is that just how you are, or is that a result of how you were brought up in your home? Did your mom or dad become furious if your kids cursed ever?

Geddy:  Oh, I've dropped a few F-bombs in my life but I didn't feel this was the place to use the F word.  As a kid, there wasn't any cursing at my home.  I was respectful and was given a lot of respect back. 


Abbe:  In your book, You speak of at times finding yourself feeling like you’re in some existential time-warp, like a camera is watching you, and time slows down as you are within it. Would you ever use transcendental meditation beyond relaxation, as an experiment to see about energy and alignment?  Would that annoy you to try it ever?

Geddy:  I'd try it.  The problem is I'm always moving, always looking for something to do.  


Abbe:  Ah, energy is interesting when it is quiet. Given the industry now, if RUSH were only just starting out, do you feel you’d all have the patience for it, let’s say we put you guys back to age 20, in the here and now. Why or why not?

Geddy:  It's an entirely different business now than it was when we first started.  Back then, we had our struggles with the industry, a lot of struggles, and difficulty just getting our music listened to.  The problem now, these days, is that terrestrial radio really doesn't exist anymore and to get your music played and to have it heard by the masses is a huge challenge if you don't have the dollars.  Satellite radio has taken over and to get your music heard on there, you either have to be lucky or have the financial ability to pay for publicists and for air time.  So, I don't think I'd have the patience.  

Abbe:  Ha, oh yes, I hear that. It's a big investment now. Is it safe to say that your band might not have risen to fame if Neil Peart had never joined? It seems that his lyric writing and playing it sealed it, true?

Geddy:  Neil was the X Factor.  Obviously, his drumming ability was from another planet.  We (Alex and I) realized that immediately.  What we didn't realize at first was his writing ability.  Once we saw that talent, we were off to the races


Abbe:  It's incredible, the playing and the lyrics. How does a musician of your caliber, with so much music and songwriting, slow down his head at night? 

Geddy:  I can shut it off.  If an idea comes to mind I'll jot it down or get up, go to the other room, and record it so I don't forget it.  


Abbe:  2112, the landmark that perks up everyone's ears to hear how RUSH has technique and is interesting beyond the beat. Motifs are elements that bend the ear, so, what strikes me is, that you three seemed to always be able to get along while recording an album for weeks, is that true? Or have there been times where in the studio, just between the three of you, it took hours to agree on something? Any stories or moments about that?

Geddy:  Ha!  There were a lot of times we disagreed.   There were times Alex stormed out of the studio.  There were times I walked out as well.  That's what kept us motivated and creative.  It's not good to always agree on projects.  Everyone has to have input and that's what probably kept us together for such a long time. 


Abbe:  Well, this will be inspiring then for bands now, duking it out! Ha. (be patient, it's worth it, bands)Quick answer segment time! Don’t analyze it, let it FLY BY… off the top of your head please answer these zingers:

Geddy:  Alright.


Abbe: The best bass player ever to have lived has been.

Geddy:  There's been a lot.  But, my choice is and will always be John Entwistle of the WHO.  He was like lightning and had amazing timing and rhythm.  I also really liked Jack Bruce from Cream.  He was slick.  Nothing overly dramatic with his playing, just in-the-pocket solid. 

Abbe: In the pocket brings it together. Cool!  If there was an exodus and I could only hear one song of ours again, and bring only one bass the choices would be the song ___________________  and the bass would be my ___________.

Geddy:  Songs?  Only one?  How about a mix of Finding My Way, 2112, and Tom Sawyer.   Does that count?  LOL Basses?  My '72 Black Fender Jazz Bass.  It's been good to me for a long time.  I bought it at a pawn shop.  I stole that thing for about $200.  

Abbe:  If Neil were sitting with me right here, I’d say this to him immediately. 

Geddy:  Brother, I've missed you.  Sit down, and stay awhile. 


Abbe:  The best show I have ever seen in rock music has got to be ___________

Geddy:  Seen, there's been a lot.  I can't name just one.  I can name the one that I've been involved with that stands out above any others.  That was actually recent, in 2022.  The Taylor Hawkins Tribute concert.  Alex and I were invited to play and it was absolutely wonderful, such an amazing time and an amazing experience.  And, that was the first time Alex and I had performed together live in about 7 years.  There was definitely some rust and probably a bit of nerves.  It was a very special night for all of us. I think if you spoke to anyone who performed there they'd agree.  


Abbe:  Time is a mistress and it is also a __________________________

Geddy:  Time is also a curse because none of us get to have enough of it in our lives. 

Abbe:  The best thing about our band RUSH came down to two things, those elements are

__________________________   and __________________________________.

Geddy:  Friendship and respect for each other. 


Abbe:  Now I know people want to know what Geddy Lee has on his Spotify songlists, so clue me in.

Geddy:  Oh wow, it's an eclectic mix of all kinds of music; rock, jazz, fusion, classical.  A bit of a mish-mosh of sorts.  The Stones, The WHO, Cream, Yes.  


Abbe:  Your bass lines are intricate and you are singing over that. How long did it take for you to sing complex lyrics by Neil while playing complex bass lines?

Geddy:  Some of the songs took no time at all to learn.  Others, those with very spiritual and mystical words took some time.  There were times we had to reel him in a bit because the words were very complicated, very intricate.  Neil was more than a wordsmith, he was a musical savant of sorts. 

Abbe: Is there anything you realized after the printing of this book that you wish you had included about Neil and any odd signs? Hauntings, like drumsticks tapping on your window? Ha.

Geddy:  Drumsticks tapping on my window?  LOL. Well, I haven't quite heard that yet but I'll keep an ear for anything that sounds like that.  You know, the three of us spent our entire adult lives together.  Off-hand, I really can't think of anything.  

Abbe:  If you end up passing years from now before Alex, what would you do to your longtime friend/brother, to vex him if you could haunt him someday?

Geddy:  Ha!  I'd randomly place a bottle of Blue Nun or Night Train wine around his house!  Back when we first started out and touring, that's what we had.  That's about all we could afford back then.  Once we started to gain momentum, Alex became more of a "wine snob."  So, if he randomly found those bottles around his house he'd know it was me from the great beyond!


Abbe:  Ha! This is great! Now, in all seriousness, I feel everything does have its time and season, yet, what stops you and Alex from doing a tribute event for Neil Peart? 

Geddy:  You know, I've been asked that a lot and I don't know if we won't and I don't know if we will.  Neil was a very private guy.  He had a great personality, was extremely witty and intelligent, very intelligent.  He wasn't into parties or celebrations.  He enjoyed a good book and was much of a loner away from the touring.  If we did a tribute, he'd probably be off on the side, looking over from wherever he is and he'd shrug his shoulders and say, "Yep" and give a nod and go off to be by himself.  So, in actuality, who are we doing the tribute for then?  Him or us?  I know the fans would love to see that so I'll just say, never say never I suppose.  


Abbe:  I hear ya. Yet on the other side maybe he has learned a bit more, maybe he'd like it more? Ha, ya never know. Right now with anti-semitism on the rise your book is even more of a gift.  I’m sure when you began this memoir during COVID, you couldn’t imagine Oct 7th would ever happen. What are your thoughts about it and do you fear things when it comes to how you’ve raised your kids with your Jewish culture and background?

Geddy:  This is a very scary time we're all living in.  There's so much ant-semitism around now and it's growing at a very rapid pace.  It's everywhere.  In the United States, I don't have to tell you about this.  A few years back all the people who were hiding behind their prejudices suddenly had the call to come out and express those prejudices to the masses.  What changed that?  I think we both know the answer to that.  I never imagined we'd be living in a world where there's all this hatred over such petty things as someone's religion, race, or sexual preference.  It's really scary.  My parents are Holocaust survivors, and so are Alex's.  We've lived this our entire life and here it is again.  My kids are adults now.  They've heard all the stories.  I'd love to see them remain stories and not current events.  The problem is how do we get everyone on the same peaceful journey. 


Abbe:  I feel the same way with our kids, your parents, reading their stories in your book, such survival and heart they had. Everyone I’m sure is asking you this, yet there is talk that you and Alex might tour soon, is this true and which drummers have you considered?

Geddy:  Honestly, I don't know.  We talk all the time.  We're brothers from different mothers and fathers.  I love him as if he is my blood brother.  We've talked about it, more recently.  We'll just have to wait and see how the stars align.  One big issue is Alex has been dealing with arthritis in his hands and wrists for years.  He's tolerated it and has played through it.  I don't know if he'd want to deal with that at this point in his life.  That's very painful.  But, I could call him today and say I'm coming over to jam and he'd say, come on over.  If the magic is still there along with the desire, I'll just say maybe.  Do you know a good rheumatologist?  LOL


Abbe: Ha, nope. Aw, man, sorry he goes thru that. I realize you are on your book-signing tour right now, What else would you like us to know about your plans for the year ahead?

Geddy:  Plans ahead?  Hmmm.  I'm just taking things as they come day to day right now, not thinking too far into the future.  


Abbe:  Geddy, there will never be an end to questions I want to ask, yet thanks a lot for your time, and for the phenomenal music by RUSH, which transports large audiences (I was transfixed in awe, the first time I heard RUSH play). 

Geddy:  Aww, thank you, Abbe.  That's very kind of you.  


Abbe:  I hope you both do a tour and while you will miss Neil on stage with you, music heals and connects everyone beyond time. I wish you both the best!

Geddy:  Thank you, Abbe.  This has been fun.  I enjoyed your questions.  I can see you put a lot of thought into this and I really appreciate that.  I'll keep you posted on any "breaking news" from the RUSH camp.


"Positioning of Geddy's book at the Biltmore Square B&N store"

Abbe Davis, Editor of TRR / Musician


Frontperson and songwriter, Abbe Davis, heads her hard rock originals band, Abbe Davis band. Her background in singing has also been classical, blues and jazz, though her main love is rock music. She is always intrigued and inspired by interviews as editor of TRR. 


Her band records new singles this winter. Abbe has performed alongside legendary Blues artist, Buddy Guy at the Riverwalk Blues Festival, the Parkland Memorial concert, and recently headlined the Day of Rock Festival.

bottom of page