Few hard rock bassists have been as influential as Rush’s Geddy Lee. Born Gary Weinrib on July 29, 1953, in Toronto, his parents migrated from Europe to Canada and got his nickname “Geddy” from when his mother would try to pronounce “Gary” in her accent. Taking up bass as a teenager and influenced by the likes of the Who’s John Entwistle, Cream’s Jack Bruce, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Lee hooked up with guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer John Rutsey to form the hard rocking trio Rush (Lee would also serve as the band’s lead vocalist). Although the band would eventually find success and fortune as a progressive hard rock band, early on they were highly derivative of blues rock/Led Zeppelin, as their self-titled 1974 debut proved.
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The Life You Give: Geddy Lee
in celebration of his life in music
July 29 at 7:30pm EST
But when Neal Peart replaced Rutsey one year later, the band’s sound and musical direction immediately changed. Gone were the long Zep-jams and in came technically demanding and challenging hard rock, complete with thought-provoking lyrics (courtesy of Peart) — although Lee’s high-pitched, Robert Plant-esque wail remained. After honing their sound on a few albums, the trio hit pay dirt with relentless touring and their 1976 sci-fi concept album, 2112. Each successive release outsold it’s predecessor (such prog metal classics as A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves), and by 1981’s Moving Pictures, Rush had become one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. Throughout the ’80s, Rush explored more modern (almost new wave-ish) sounds, yet their massive fan base remained in tact — with Lee’s vocals becoming more restrained.
Rush cruised along throughout the ’90s (returning to their earlier, organic hard rock sound with such releases as 1993’s Counterparts), issuing successful albums and playing sold-out arena tours worldwide, until the band went on indefinite hiatus in 1997. To combat the downtime, Lee issued his first ever solo album in 2000, My Favorite Headache (who was joined by ex-Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and ex-FM guitarist/violinist Ben Mink). Lee’s influence on rock bass can be heard in the playing of such wide-ranging disciples as Primus’ Les Claypool, Dream Theater’s John Myung, and Metallica’s Cliff Burton.
By Greg Prato / Source: all music