Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson: Rush members? names proposed for art park in Willowdale

By Jessica Allen, North York Mirror, July 17, 2014

The suburbs may "have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth" but North York provided an inspirational backdrop for Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson as they created iconic Canadian band Rush some 45 years ago.

Now, Lee and Lifeson are expected to be honoured when a unique creative space in Willowdale is named the Lee Lifeson Art Park.

A report on the proposed name is scheduled to come before North York community council Aug. 12.

The name has been applauded by residents at two community meetings and Lee and Lifeson are pleased with the honour, Willowdale Councillor John Filion said.

"They were wonderful about it. They asked a lot of questions," he said about meeting with the band mates about the idea in May.

"They said they would be honoured to have a park like this named after them."

The park will be built next year northeast of Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue between Hillcrest and Princess avenue, east of Gladys Allison Place.

While it will be a local space meant for area residents, it will be more than an ordinary park.

"Two years ago, I came up with the idea to create a park that would focus on the arts and would be a celebration of creativity, where people could go to be creative or go to enjoy others' creativity," Filion said.

"All the arts will be represented there but the focus will be on music and sound. This is really a new concept, there isn't a prototype anywhere. It's nothing we're copying from anywhere else."

When it came time to think of a name for the park, Lee and Lifeson's names "just jumped off the page," Filion said.

Lead singer and bass and keyboard player Lee and lead guitar player Lifeson make up two-thirds of Rush.

The trio also includes drummer and lyricist Neil Peart.

Lee and Lifeson launched Rush as students of Fisherville Junior High School, northeast of Bathurst Street and Drewry Avenue, in the late 1960s.

"All their early rehearsals were at their parents' homes in Willowdale. Most of their early gigs were at local high schools, like Earl Haig," Filion said.

"They're very connected to Willowdale and they're very renowned musicians."

Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Saying he is a bit too old to have grown up listening to Rush, Filion is familiar with the band's music but has become more of a fan since the idea of naming the park after Lee and Lifeson surfaced.

"I'm beyond impressed how intricate their music is with a three-member band," he said.

His favourite song is Subdivisions.

Filion dismissed suggestions the name of the park may be confusing if people think it is named after someone named Lee Lifeson as opposed to the surnames of the two Rush members.

"If it's confusing, I don't think it will be confusing for long," he said.

He is looking forward to the opening of the park.

"It's going to be a really amazing park. We're going to be involving local artists of every type," he said.

"It will be a place to celebrate creativity. It will be a real asset to the community."