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Weekend Songs: Rush, ‘Working Man’

Rush
Mercury/Anthem/Moon Records

Classic rock is about heavy hooks, power chords, and tight harmonies, but it’s also about letting loose and enjoying the good times — and there’s no better time than Friday evening, when we pick up our paycheck, punch out of work, and enjoy a couple days of much-needed rest and relaxation.

Since last Friday’s entry paid tribute to Heart‘s long-overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we thought it would only be fair to dedicate this week’s column to another member of the Hall’s Class of 2013: The Canadian power trio Rush, whose impeccable musicianship and tireless dedication to intricate songcraft have made them one of rock’s most enduringly successful acts.

Given how squarely much of the Rush catalog rests on Neil Peart‘s drums, Alex Lifeson‘s guitar, and Geddy Lee‘s bass, it’d be relatively easy to pick pretty much any song from any random Rush record and drop it into this feature. But arguably none fit better than ‘Working Man,’ a cut from the band’s self-titled 1974 debut album — partly because it’s a blue-collar anthem featuring not one, but two Lifeson guitar solos, and partly because its early success came largely thanks to extensive radio play in one of America’s proudest working-class towns.

Every Rush fan already knows the story, but here’s the condensed version: Cleveland DJ Donna Halpern, a jockey at the legendary WMMS, added ‘Working Man’ to the rotation and noticed immediate results from the listeners, whose incessant demands to know where they could buy the record led to local shops selling out of their copies — which were being imported through the band’s own tiny label, Moon Records. Rush’s Cleveland renown led to a deal with Mercury, and the rest was history.

‘Rush’ and ‘Working Man’ were released nearly 40 years ago, and plenty of things have changed, for American workers as well as the members of the band — but the song’s message remains just as resonant, and it still sounds just as satisfying at high volume when you’re pulling out of the office parking lot on a Friday evening. But why wait for five o’clock? We’ve embedded the video below, so hit “play” and let the weekend start now.

Next: 'Barracuda' by Heart

Watch Rush Perform ‘Working Man’

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