With influences found in Led Zeppelin, Cream and King Crimson, Rush burst out onto the Canadian music scene in the early 1970s. Formed in August 1968 in the Willowdale neighborhood of Toronto, the original lineup included Alex Lifeson on guitar, Jeff Jones on bass and John Rutsey on drums. Jones was soon replaced by Geddy Lee, and, in 1974, after the release of the group’s debut album, Rutsey left and was replaced by Neil Peart. This has been the line-up ever since.
After playing around Toronto for few years, they released their first single: a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away.” After not meeting their expectations, Rush decided to launch their own label, Moon Records. Their debut self-titled release followed in 1974. A Cleveland radio station WMMS 100.7FM, picked up the song “Working Man”, which caught the attention of Mercury Records in the U.S. They picked up the album, and the popularity skyrocketed.
The following year, Rush released two albums, Fly by Night and Caress of Steel. The group’s big breakthrough came twith the release of the album 2112 in 1976 with a 20-minute title track divided into seven sections. It went platinum in Canada, and Rush hit the road across North America.
Rush then traveled across the pond to the United Kingdom for their next two albums: 1977’s A Farewell to Kings and 1978’s Hemispheres, going in a more prog-rock direction.
“As our tastes got more obscure, we discovered more progressive rock—based bands like Yes, Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, and we were very inspired by those bands,” said Lee. “They made us want to make our music more interesting and more complex, and we tried to blend that with our own personalities to see what we could come up with that was indisputably us.”
Rush’s popularity continued to soar, and in 1980, their Permanent Waves album hit the Top 5 in the United States. The following year Rush released Moving Pictures. That album reached Number Three and sold more than four million copies.
With the release of Signals in 1982, Rush’s sound underwent yet another change, utilizing synthesizers. This resulted in Rush’s only Top 40 hit single in the U.S., “New World Man.” They kept out of the spotlight for the rest of the 80s, but albums continued to hit Gold or Platinum status.
The band has gone on to sell 40 million records worldwide, sell out tours, earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and become officers of the Order of Canada.
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