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Geddy Lee at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto on Dec. 6, 2023.George Pimentel/The Canadian Press

If you’re a music lover, chances are you fall into one of two categories: Either you hate Rush or you will love their prog-rock hearts till your last breath. There’s no arguing with the band’s success: After The Beatles and the Stones, the trio from Toronto has more consecutive gold and platinum records than any other rock band. At the end of last year, 70-year-old front man Geddy Lee (born Gershon Eliezer Weinrib) released his long-awaited memoir, My Effin’ Life.

Play to your strengths

Until 1974, when drummer Neil Peart joined Rush, Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson split songwriting duties. But they quickly realized Peart’s fantastical and far-out words perfectly suited their sound, and they anointed him official lyricist. Lee was a bass master, and that screechtastic voice was one-of-a-kind. Lifeson was unparalleled on guitar. Both were smart enough to recognize that Peart’s words held the key to their success, and for four decades, they gave him the space to do what he did best.

Don’t compromise

In 1975, Rush released Caress of Steel, featuring sprawling concept songs that landed with a thud among fans, critics and the band’s record label. The label gave them another shot but demanded they generate some radio-worthy hits. Instead, Rush made 2112, possibly the biggest nerd/concept album of all time (the title track ran 20 minutes, divided into seven sections, and took up the entire A side). 2112 was a critical and commercial hit, and it cemented the trio’s popularity. As Lee once said, “We were prepared to go down with the ship, and we almost did.”

Keep cool

Ego can make or break a band, and the list of groups torn apart by backstage drama is very, very long. Not many can claim the longevity of Rush, which happily played together for just over 40 years, until tragedy-plagued Peart retired in 2015 to spend more time with his family. (He died in 2020 of brain cancer.) All that time, the trio considered themselves equal partners in the endeavour, and they worked hard to make it all about the music, not themselves.

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Live your best life

The “personal life” entry on Lee’s Wikipedia page begins: “Lee married Nancy Young in 1976. They have a son and a daughter. He takes annual trips to France, where he indulges in cheese and wine.” If that’s not #lifegoals, nothing is. Lee is also an enthusiastic collector of just about everything, from bass guitars to baseball memorabilia to wine. He wrote a coffee table book about his chosen instrument, and in late 2023, Paramount+ dropped four episodes of Geddy Lee Asks: Are Bass Players Human Too?, which features him nerding out with other four-stringers. Yes, Lee—the child of Holocaust survivors—has suffered plenty of loss. But he knows he’d be a fool not to embrace what joy he can and hold on tight.

No regrets (almost)

Sure, Lee has regrets—most notably the time he spent away from his wife and kids while on the road. Fair enough. But professionally, Lee wouldn’t change a thing. When asked which Rush album he’d want to rerecord, he wisely answered: “I never finished a record I was totally happy with, but I think it’s a fool’s errand....Let it stand for what it was, warts and all.” Millions of fans would agree.

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