Rushs grandiose arrangements may have often called him to the keyboards, but plant a bass in his hands and Geddy Lee will always deliver imagination and technique in equal spadefuls. Gareth Morgan cranks his headphones to deliver a Rush bass special
Bass guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Geddy Lee, a key member of the Rush trio since September, 1968, has won Guitar Player magazine’s ‘Best Rock Bassist’ category six times, as well as numerous other awards. He was born Gary Lee Weinrib on 29th July, 1953 in Willowdale, Toronto. His parents were Jewish refugees and survivors of the Dachau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, and it was his mother’s heavily accented pronunciation of his given name that inspired the high school nickname ‘Geddy’ that he eventually adopted
for the stage.
Lee met guitarist Alex Lifeson at school and joined Lifeson’s band Rush after the departure of original bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones. The line-up finally stabilised when Neil Peart replaced original drummer John Rutsey after the release of their self-titled first album in 1974, two weeks before the start of Rush’s first American tour. From their second album (Fly By Night, 1975) onwards Peart also wrote the lyrics, and his penchant for science fiction resulted in a run of concept albums including the 2112 set from 1976 which proved to be their commercial breakthrough. This coincided with a move away from the hard-rock approach to more detailed arrangements and the use of numerous odd-time signatures.
Rush’s ‘progressive rock’ style peaked with 1980’s Permanent Waves and the follow-up Moving Pictures (1981), a period that also yielded the hit single The Spirit Of The Radio. Subsequent albums never really matched the success from this period, but Rush continued to evolve, with Lee at one stage in the late ’80s seeming to play more synthesiser than bass before the band returned to their guitar-driven roots from 1991’s Roll The Bones onwards. Rush ceased as an entity in 1997 after Peart suffered two personal tragedies within six months, eventually returning with Vapour Trails in 2002.
Geddy Lee is a highly skilled and extremely influential bassist who has inspired the likes of Les Claypool of Primus and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. He played Rickenbacker basses throughout the 1970s and also dabbled with Steinbergers and Wals before settling on a 1973 Fender Jazz for most of his playing from the early ’90s onwards. Lee is not only an incredible technician but also has a keen sense of melody, enabling him to deliver powerful grooves whose wandering creativity adds a much-needed improvisational dimension to Rush’s otherwise tightly-arranged material.