I get asked these question a lot, or various iteration of them: “Why is Rush your favorite band?” “Aren’t those the guys who sing that Tom Sawyer song?” “All I know is that guy who sings really high.” “Why do you wear their t-shirts on casual Friday?” “Aren’t you one of those crazy fans?”
And my personal favorite, which is not even a question: “But you’re a girl!”
Yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I’m a Rush fan. Yes, I have a nice little collection of vintage t-shirts that I’ve collected over the years, even though I’ve only been alive long enough to see only a few studio album releases.
But no, I am not crazy. Rush is my favorite band, and that’s not changing. I’m still going to do by best to go to a concert on every tour. If there’s a screening of Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage that Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson just happen to be at (which they were this week), I’m still going to go. Call me crazy if you will, but it’s not crazy. Because Rush saved my life.
I remember the first time I heard Rush. I tell people I was 8 at the time, though I’m not entirely sure when exactly it was. But I remember everything else clearly. I had a strong interest in Greek mythology. We were learning about it in school (I guess this would then probably date the age I was to around 10), and I just took to the stories and myths veraciously.
My dad, being the one to have exposed me to such stories as Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Dune, decided to take it upon himself to educate me in my next lesson: music. He sat me down, dusted off his turntable, and said, “If you like Greek mythology, then to listen to this.” He pulled out an album and put the vinyl on the player. Then he gave me the lyrics sheet and said, “Here are the lyrics. I want you to read along with this to get the story.” I was very hesitant, because the album I was looking at was this:
Kind of shocking for a 10-year-old who had never seen a naked man before. I didn’t know what to make of it. But then my dad turned on the record player and played “Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres.” Quite a long name for a song, but I went along with it.
When our weary world was young
The struggle of the ancients first began
The gods of love and reason
Sought alone to rule the fate of man
I was hooked. I can’t really tell you why I was so captivated, but being a young girl who felt misunderstood and strove for excellence, I knew what I was listening to was the best of what music had to offer. I just knew that what I was hearing was produced by people who were the best at what they did. And that was inspiring.
A love of Rush soon turned into fervor, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Hemispheres turned into 2112 turned into A Farewell to Kings turned into Fly By Night turned into Caress of Steel. I could not consume enough of the music, the lyrics, and the stories behind them. I wanted to be a drummer like Neil Peart, the intelligent lyricist of the band. My dad bought me drum sticks and a practice pad, and we watched Neil’s DVDs on drumming theory and how he put together songs. I never did become a drummer, but I will always have an appreciation for the art. They were my first concert when I was 13. They subsequently have also been my most recent concert (last November on the Clockwork Angels tour).
But when Rush finally became as big of an influence in my life as they are today happened when I became a teenager. I had been bullied in my suburban town in Georgia for as long as I could remember, and no amount of therapy or “sticks and stones” mentality had made a difference. Bullies were still bullies, and nothing was going to change their minds. I was picked on relentlessly. The constant torment made school unbearable. The only solace I could find were in those few teachers who helped me, in my cat (my only true friend at the time), or in the music of Rush.
Things got worse when I made it to high school, and the taunts were even harsher than they were before. Face-to-face jokes were made into public humiliation, and my parents, even though they tried, were unable to help me face these challenges.
My life was at its darkest point. I thought of making the ultimate escape.
If social media had been in full swing as it is now, I have no doubt my name would have been one of the many we see plastered across the pages of CNN of a life taken too soon and one word: Why? Fortunately, the only question that needs to be answered is why I didn’t take my life.
Rush. And one song. “The Pass.”
(Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbBf0c-NaN4 )
Someone set a bad example
Made surrender seem all right
The act of a noble warrior
Who lost the will to fight
I had never found any other song to speak so clearly to my existence. In that moment, I knew there would be no escape to my problems. If I decided to leave this world in one moment of passion and anger, I’d be closing the door on all those I loved. And in the end, my love for them was more important than the pain I had inside. Every time I go to that dark place, I remember how many in this world I do love and how many of them love me as well. But I never would have realized it if it weren’t for Rush.
There are countless other songs that have spoken to my experience: The suburban myth in “Subdivisions.” The desire to escape and start anew in “Fly By Night.” The choosing your own destiny in “Freewill.” Nothing could have struck a stronger chord.
This is exactly why Rush matters, not just to me – but to all the fans. The lyrics and the music say and do much more for the audience than any outsider may realize.
To see these three ordinary guys from Willowdale achieve every dream they could have possibly imagined isn’t just amazing for them – it’s amazing to their fans. And Rush admits that. Today’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction isn’t just about them and the virtuosity; it’s really a testament to the fans. This is our gain as well. Their recognition that says, “We belong here, too.” So the next time you see someone wearing a t-shirt for Rush, instead of judging them for liking “By-Tor and the Snow Dog,” you might just want to go into an air drum solo of “YYZ.”
And thank God Rush saved my life.