Rush Rocks Right Into The Order Of Canada

By Norman Provencher, Ottawa Citizen, February 26, 1997

Breakfasts at the Geddy Lee household will never be the same after this afternoon's Order of Canada ceremonies at Rideau Hall.

"I'll definitely be wearing (the Order of Canada medal) to breakfasts; probably other occasions, too," said the 43-year-old lead singer and bassist for Canadian power trio Rush.

"I'll probably try to get my kids to call me 'Sir', too," Lee joked over the phone. "It'll probably be easier to convince my 2 1/2 year-old than my 16-year-old."

After 25 years on the Canadian rock scene, with about a dozen albums with sales of more than a million copies each, the members of Rush join the power elite, philanthropists, humanitarians and public servants as "officers of the Order of Canada" this afternoon in a ceremony presided over by Governor General Romeo LeBlanc.

Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart also earn the right to use the letters OC, for officers, after their names. LeBlanc will present the awards this afternoon to 43 individuals, including public servant Ronald Gould of Ottawa and businessman Frederic Martin of Aylmer.

Rock and popular musicians have been inducted into the exclusive club before. But Bryan Adams, Stompin' Tom Connors, Bruce Cockburn, producer David Foster and jazz musician Moe Koffman, among others, were all recognized as individuals. Rush is the first rock band to be decorated with the Order of Canada since the national honor system was created in 1967.

And, while Lee says he and the band are pleased and honored, he's still a bit unclear as to why they were selected.

"It can't be about politics, we've never really been a very political band."

Nevertheless, Lee concedes that much of the band's early material, with lyrics drawn in large part from the philosophies of libertarian author Ayn Rand, was taken too literally for the band's liking. In some circles, Rush was identified as a conservative, almost anti-government group, an idea Lee says missed the point of a lot of the songs such as the classic Free Will.

"We noticed it particularly in the English press in the late '70s and '80s," Lee says. "A couple (of journalists) carried those ideas much too far and it became totally absurd."

Lee acknowledges the band found merit in many of Rand's theories but "only as they pertained to the idea of artistic freedom. I'd have to say we were never very interested in the more extreme libertarianism of her politics."

What the band is interested in these days is their album, Test for Echo, which has already sold more than 600,000 copies in Canada and the United States. In an unusual development, Test for Echo has been nominated for a Juno as album of the year, while the band Victor, a side project for guitarist Lifeson, is nominated in the best new artist category.

Rush is on a break from a U.S. tour and is putting together dates for the tour's second stage, including a stop in Ottawa some time around Canada Day.

"You know what it's like in Canada at this time of year. The available dates are complicated by the hockey playoffs and we're at that hair-pulling stage with other bands on tour."