Rush is a Canadian rock band formed in August 1968, in Toronto, Ontario, composed of bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer and lyricist Neil Peart. The band and its membership went through a number of re-configurations between 1968 and 1974, achieving their current form when Peart replaced original drummer John Rutsey in July 1974, two weeks before the group's first U.S. tour. Since the release of the band's self-titled debut album in March 1974, Rush has become known for the instrumental skills of its members, complex compositions, and eclectic lyrical motifs drawing heavily on science fiction, fantasy, and libertarian philosophy, as well as addressing humanitarian, social, emotional, and environmental concerns. Musically, Rush's style has changed over the years, beginning in the vein of blues-inspired heavy metal on their first album, then encompassing hard rock, progressive rock, and a period dominated by synthesizers.
Their debut, self-titled album was released in 1974 featuring the singles, "Finding My Way" and “In the Mood.” The album peaked at #105 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. The album was later certified gold by the RIAA.
“Fly by Night” followed in 1975 and was the first Rush album to feature drummer Neil Peart. The title track and “Making Memories” were released as singles. The album peaked at #113 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum by the RIAA.
Following quickly on the heels of “Fly By Night,” the band released 1975's “Caress of Steel,” a five track hard rock/heavy metal album featuring two extended multi-chapter songs, "The Necromancer" and "The Fountain of Lamneth." The album would go on to be certified gold and peak at #148 on the Billboard 200.
1976's “2112” was the band's first taste of commercial success and their first Canadian gold and platinum album. The album 2112 features an eponymous seven-part suite written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, with lyrics written by Neil Peart. The suite tells a dystopian story set in the year 2112. Certified 3x platinum by the RIAA, the album peaked at #61 on the Billboard 200.
After “2112,” Rush followed up with 1977's “A Farewell to Kings” and 1978's “Hemispheres.”
These albums saw the band pushing the progressive rock envelope even further than before by expanding their use of progressive elements. Songs such as the "A Farewell To Kings” title track, "Closer to the Heart” and “The Trees" from “Hemispheres” made use of finger picking, a common classical guitar technique, while the introduction to "La Villa Strangiato" featured flamenco Spanish guitar lines. “A Farewell to Kings” peaked at #33 on the Billboard 200 and was eventually certified platinum. “Hemispheres” was Rush's fourth consecutive gold album upon release in 1978 and would subsequently go platinum in the U.S. while peaking at #47 on the Billboard 200.
“Permanent Waves” released in 1980 was able to spawn two radio classics, "The Spirit of Radio" which reached #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and "Freewill,” which combined musical complexity with marketable accessibility that allowed Rush to emerge as a more radio friendly band. The album dramatically shifted Rush's style of music via the introduction of reggae and new wave elements. “Permanent Waves” became Rush's first U.S. Top 5 album reaching #4 and was the band's fifth gold (eventually platinum) selling album.
Rush's popularity hit its zenith with the release of “Moving Pictures” in 1981. “Moving Pictures, extended the trend of highly accessible and commercially friendly progressive-pop rock that helped thrust them into the spotlight. The lead track, "Tom Sawyer,” perhaps the band's best known song, peaked at #44 on the Hot 100 and #8 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. “Moving Pictures” peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200, was certified 4x platinum by the RIAA and remains the band's most popular and commercially successful studio recording to date.
1982's “Signals” arguably represented Rush's most drastic stylistic transformation up to that point. Keyboards were suddenly shifted from a contrapuntal background to the melodic front-lines, while traditional guitar solos also became less of a focal point as seen in both “Countdown" and the lead-off track "Subdivisions.” “Signals” contained Rush's only Hot 100 Top 40 pop hit in, "New World Man." Although the band members consciously decided to move in this overall direction, they felt dissatisfied with long-time producer Terry Brown's studio treatment of “Signals” and parted ways with him in 1983.
The style and production of “Signals” were augmented and taken to new heights on 1984's “Grace Under Pressure.” It was Peart who named the album, as he borrowed the words of Ernest Hemingway to describe what the band had to go through after making the decision to leave Terry Brown. “Grace Under Pressure” reached #10 on the Billboard 200 and went platinum in the U.S. upon its release.
With new producer Peter Collins, the band released 1985's “Power Windows” and 1987's “Hold Your Fire.” The music on these two albums gives far more emphasis and prominence to Lee's multi-layered synthesizer work. “Power Windows” would be certified platinum after peaking at #10 on the Billboard 200. Charting singles included, "The Big Money," "Territories," "Mystic Rhythms" and "Manhattan Project." “Hold Your Fire” peaked at #13 (the first time a Rush studio album failed to reach the Top 10 since 1978's “Hemispheres”) and was later certified gold.
Rush started to deviate from their 1980s style with the albums “Presto” released 1989 and “Roll the Bones” released in 1991. While synthesizers were still used on many songs, the instrument was no longer featured as the centerpiece of Rush's compositions. The gold certified “Presto” peaked at #16 on the Billboard 200 and all of singles released from the album, "Show Don't Tell," "The Pass" and "Superconductor" charted, with "Show Don't Tell" hitting #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The platinum certified “Roll the Bones” became Rush's first Top 5 album since 1981's “Moving Pictures” peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200.
The transition from synthesizers to more guitar-oriented and organic instrumentation continued with the 1993 album “Counterparts” and its follow-up, 1996's “Test for Echo.” “Counterparts” became Rush's highest charting album in the U.S., peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200. "Stick it Out" topped the Mainstream Rock Tracks for four weeks in late 1993, becoming the band's fifth single to do so. "Leave That Thing Alone" earned a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental. “Test for Echo” would peak at #5 on the Billboard 200 before being certified gold. The title track reached #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart. After wrapping up the tour promoting “Test for Echo” in 1997, the band entered a five-year hiatus.
The band returned in May 2002 with “Vapor Trails,” written and recorded in Toronto and the first studio recording not to include a single synthesizer, organ or keyboard part since the early 1970s. The album peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200 and its lead single, “One Little Victory” peaked at #10 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
“Snakes & Arrows” was released in 2007 and debuted at #3 in the Billboard 200. The track "Malignant Narcissism" was nominated for a Grammy Award under the category Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The single, "Far Cry" peaked at #22 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
Over their careers, the members of Rush have been acknowledged as some of the most proficient players on their respective instruments, with each band member winning numerous awards in magazine readers' polls. Rush has won a number of Juno Awards, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994. As a group, Rush possesses 24 gold records and 14 platinum (three multi-platinum) records. Rush's sales statistics place them third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. Rush also ranks 79th in U.S. album sales with 25 million units. Although total worldwide album sales are not calculated by any single entity, as of 2004 several industry sources estimated Rush's total worldwide album sales at over 40 million units.