If I told you Gary Lee Weinrib, would you know who we are talking about? What if I say that Geddy Lee is our protagonist today?
Today, July 29th we celebrate the 67th birthday of the multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer and co-author of the music of Rush. Happy birthday to Canadian officer Geddy Lee! (The officer’s story will be explained to you shortly, stay tuned!)
Geddy Lee, the origins
Geddy Lee was born on July 29, 1953 as Gary Lee Weinrib, but later changed his name.
The origin of the stage name (and later legal name) “Geddy” was inspired by the heavily accented way in which the mother pronounced her name, “Gary”. Her parents, Morris and Mary Weinrib, were Jewish refugees from Poland who survived concentration camps during World War II.
Geddy grew up in Toronto’s Willowdale neighborhood and attended Fisherville Junior High School, where he met his future bandmate, Alex Lifeson.
Taking his bass guitar as a teenager, Geddy Lee was influenced by the likes of Who’s John Entwistle, Jack Bruce from Cream and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin.
In addition to the aforementioned Lifeson, Geddy Lee also joined drummer John Rutsey to form the hard rock trio Rush. Even the name Rush, like Geddy, arrived at a later stage: the band, in truth, had called itself Hadrian for some time.
Although Rush eventually found success and luck as a progressive hard rock band, they were heavily inspired by Led Zeppelin’s blues rock at the beginning, as evidenced by their 1974 debut of the same name Rush.
When Neil Peart (recently passed away in 2020) replaced drummer Rutsey in 1975, the band’s musical direction changed radically. After fine-tuning their sound on some albums, the trio kick off an unstoppable tour and their sci-fi album from 1976, 2112.
Each subsequent release of the group exceeded the previous one and in the 80s Rush practically became one of the largest rock bands on the planet. Also in the 1980s, Rush continued their musical exploration, with Geddy Lee’s voice becoming more “contained”.
This is an incredible anecdote that comes from those years: since 1982, Geddy Lee ventured into music production. He participated in the Canadian part of the USA for Africa charity project called Northern Lights, appearing among the singers of the piece Tears Are Not Enough. In addition, Rush gave a song for the Hear ‘n Aid compilation, the metal part of the same project. For this anecdote we have taken the suggestion of a particularly prepared reader who has an Italian portal dedicated to Rush, check it out! www.limborush.it
Solo album and other works with Rush
In the 90s, Geddy Lee released 3 more albums with Rush but in 1997 the band took an indefinite break. To combat this moment, Lee released his first and only solo album in 2000, My Favorite Headache (joined by former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and former guitarist / violinist Ben Mink). The album reaches number 52 on the “Billboard 200”. The track on the album “Grace to Grace” also managed to be broadcast on mainstream radio.
Also in the 2000s, 3 other Rush albums were released, respectively in 2002, 2007 and 2012. In 2013 the band joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while in 2015 a celebratory tour started, to commemorate the 40 years of his recording career, followed by the publication of a live extract in audio and video version.
From that moment it seems that the band’s activity has ended, although officially Rush have never split up. As previously mentioned, on January 7, 2020 drummer Neil Peart passed away, putting (perhaps) the end of the band.
But what instruments did today’s birthday boy use for all these successes?
Jeddy Lee’s main bass is a 1972 black Fender Jazz Bass, even bought at a pawnshop in Michigan for around $ 200. This bass was used to record several Rush albums, including Permanent Waves, Test for Echo, Snakes & Arrows and Clockwork Angels.
This bass was modified directly by Lee with a Quan BadAss II bridge, while the original neck was replaced before the Snakes & Arrows album tour.
In 1998 Fender began production of the “Geddy Lee Signature Bass“, modeled on that of 1972. This bass is still in production, should you wish to purchase one, and since 2009 the Sunburst color has entered the range of available options. In 2015, always Fender, released a new version of this model with many changes that, in fact, reflected what Geddy Lee did to his instrument.
Besides this iconic bass, another very famous of today’s birthday boy is a black Rickenbacker 4001, used for live and studio works between 1975 and 1984.
Whatever your choice, whether the Fender or the Rickenbacker, it is still a piece of music history. Watch the next video to understand the use of the instrumentation and the love for it, directly from the voice of Geddy Lee!
Geddy Lee’s achievements
About the history of music, let’s go in chronological order to tell you all the successes and awards of Geddy Lee, which left their mark in future generations.
In 1993 the readers of “Bass Player” assigned him the “Best Rock Bass Player” award.
In 1996 he was given the title of “Officer of the Order of Canada” together with his bandmates, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart. Here is an excerpt from their award ceremony: “Members of the progressive rock trio, RUSH, stage veterans, raised over a million dollars for charities, such as food banks and United Way. Their efforts helped to improve society’s awareness of the situation of the less fortunate, stimulating and awakening the social conscience of an entire generation. Musicians far and wide have been influenced by the successes of the band, a testament to their contribution to popular music “.
In 2010, as a member of Rush, he was awarded the title of “Living Legend” by Classic Rock magazine.
In 2012 he received the prestigious “Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal“.
The following year, as reported in the previous paragraph, Geddy Lee and his Rush were introduced into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame“.
He is 13th on the “Hit Parader” list of the “100 best heavy metal singers of all time“.
Geddy Lee’s legacy
Geddy Lee not only represents a living legend of rock but, with good reason, he is to be considered one of the most influential musicians of all time.
His voice has been defined as “surprisingly high”, while his distinctive musical style and charisma have inspired many musicians in the rock, prog and heavy metal genres, including Metallica’s Cliff Burton, Dream Theater’s John Myung and Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris, to name a few.
Lee continues to fascinate audiences like no other rock musician. He is admired and watched with respect for his multi-tasking skills. For example while juggling the stage in various roles, playing the bass, handling the keyboard and singing at the same time.
In addition, Geddy Lee was able to entertain the audience with unique and bizarre props such as full refrigerators, coin-operated dryers and even a rotisserie oven accompanied by a chef!
What else to say, Officer Geddy Lee, you have recruited us among your soldiers! And we hope that this year, 20 years after the first and only one, another surprising solo album will arrive.