When Geddy Lee Finally Confronted Alex Lifeson Over Rush Firing
Though the band was the model of consistency for most of its existence, there were several changes in Rush’s early years. In 1969, the group’s lineup consisted of Lee on bass and vocals, Lifeson on guitar, drummer John Rutsey and keyboardist Lindy Young. That fall, Lee was kicked out of the band.
“The way it all went down, we were kids,” the bassist recently recalled during an appearance on NPR’s World Cafe. “And so that day, I was informed by our fourth member at the time, who ended up becoming my brother-in-law, eventually, Lindy Young… He told me that the band had broken up.”
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Young, it turned out, was taking it easy on Lee, as Rush continued with new members following his dismissal.
“I was kind of reeling from that," the bassist confessed, "but a few months later when John called me and asked me to rejoin the band because their band that they had turned Rush into was a kind of disaster -- which I wasn’t unhappy to hear. I felt so vindicated when John called and said, ‘Look, why don’t you come back.’”
The decision to return was an easy one.
“[Lifeson] was sort of my best friend still, in a weird way. And I wanted to play with them again, and so I went back happily. And we just went at it. And I never really put him on the hot seat as to what really occurred.”
'Did You Defend Me?'
As rock fans know, Rush – with Lee, Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart (who joined in 1974) – went on to have a legendary career. For decades, Lee never confronted Lifeson regarding his brief dismissal from the band. However, when the bassist began working on his recently-released memoir, he finally broached the subject.
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“I asked him to come over to my house because I wanted to interview him for my book,” Lee recalled. “And so, we’re having our usual laughs and kidding [with] each other, we have that kind of friendship. So I just put it to him. ‘So Al, when I got kicked out of the band, who really was the motivating factor here? Was it the new manager, Ray? Was it John? And where did you stand on all of this? Did you defend me?””
Lifeson was coy in response, and perhaps a little embarrassed.
“He was looking at the ground a little bit. And he was saying, ‘Well, you know me back then, Ged,” Lee recalled the guitarist telling him. “‘I was just the guy who sort of went along with things. And John was such a dominant personality,’ which he was.”
“I just think that Al just went with the flow,” Lee admitted. “And he didn’t really have an excuse or a strong reason.”
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Gallery Credit: Ryan Reed