Rush, Robert Charlebois Join Songwriters' Hall Of Fame

CTV News, March 29, 2010

TORONTO - Even after scores of accolades, this seemed like a special night for Rush.

So as the prog-rockers became the first group ever ushered into the Canadian songwriters' hall of fame and watched a succession of younger musicians interpret their songs onstage at a Toronto gala on Sunday, perhaps it was time for the veteran band to reflect on a 40-plus-year career.


"Oh, hell no," a laughing Geddy Lee said backstage, smiling and standing next to drummer Neil Peart and guitarist Alex Lifeson.

"We try not to think about that."

It was tough on this night, when the Toronto trio was feted along with Montreal multi-hyphenate artist Robert Charlebois and inducted into the hall of fame for Canadian songwriters, which was founded in 1998.

Rush, certainly, has received plenty of attention before.

On top of 14 platinum records and six Grammy nominations, they were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994, they were made Officers of the Order of Canada in '96, and each member of the trio has been feted countless times for their instrumental prowess in various industry mags.

And that's exactly what made this particular honour such a surprise - on Sunday, the band was honoured for their songwriting as they joined a select group that also includes Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

Where those artists are known mostly for their unparalleled songwriting skills - with decades of material that's been reinterpreted and covered by artists the world over - Rush has typically been more associated with their unrivalled musicianship and their restless ambition to conquer every musical genre, sometimes in the span of one song.

The band acknowledged that immediately in their speech, which was delivered entirely by drummer Neil Peart.

"First of all, songwriting award? Rush? There must be some mistake," Peart said to laughter from a crowd that had just serenaded the group with a standing ovation.

"We continue to inspire each other and create music that inspires us all."

The band was inducted for five specific songs (all written at least 25 years ago, as per the hall's rules): "Limelight," "Tom Sawyer," "The Spirit of Radio," "Subdivisions" and "Closer to the Heart."

Other songs inducted Sunday included Alfred Bryan and Fred Fisher's "Come Josephine in My Flying Machine," Ovila Legare's "Des mitaines pas de pouces," Elizabeth Clarke's "(There's a) Bluebird on Your Windowsill," Germaine Dugas's "Deux enfants du meme age," Michel Pagliaro's "J'entends frapper" and Dolores Claman's "The Hockey Theme."

Charlebois's induction specifically centred on five tunes that he wrote or co-penned: "Fu Man Chu," "Les ailes d'un ange," "Lindberg," "Demain l'hiver," and "Ordinaire," which he performed.

Charlebois - the 65-year-old musician, author and actor - was reflective when he took the stage to accept the honour.

"I hope it's not the end of a career, because I'm still young," said Charlebois, who addressed the crowd in French and English without the aid of notes.

"A career is the encounters of different people who bring you magic."

Durand, Mara Tremblay, Pierre Flynn and Dumas interpreted two of his songs, while other inducted songs were covered by Dala, DJ Champion, Marie-Jo Therio, Le Vent du Nord, Lily Frost and comedian Sean Cullen.

For Rush, Hamilton singer-songwriter Jacob Moon offered an ethereal take on the band's "Subdivisions" (his rooftop performance of the song has become a YouTube hit), Alexisonfire howled through a raucous version of "Tom Sawyer" and Les Claypool performed the strutting "The Spirit of Radio" after commending the band not just for their musical legacy, but for their personal demeanours, too.

"I would like to let all the Rush fans know - as a Rush fan - that they're actually really great guys," he said. "They're intelligent, they're humorous, and they're family men.

"They're just good human beings and I'm glad they're on this planet."