New autobiography by Rush rock star Geddy Lee sheds light on the libertarian and anti-authoritarian roots of the Canadian prog-rock band

By Michael Grossberg

For Rush fans, the recent publication of Canadian rock star Geddy Lee’s autobiography should spark interest.
LFS members, currently weighing this year’s slate of Prometheus Hall of Fame finalists including the Rush fantasy song “The Trees,” should find My Effin’ Life (Harper) especially timely and intriguing.

An Associated Press review by Mark Kennedy of Lee’s book mentions quite a few influences on him, which Geddy discusses in his memoir.

Among the most significant influences discussed in the memoir are three major writers, each of whom has been recognized by the Prometheus Awards: Robert Heinlein, Ayn Rand and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Here’s an excerpt from the review, which was published in newspapers across North America:

“The band – considered the patron saints of brainy, technical, ambitious rock – leans on all kinds of sources, from the sci-fi of Robert A. Heinlein and J.R.R. Tolkien, to Ayn Rand, Rod Serling and Jean-Paul Sartre,” Kennedy writes.

“Lee’s writing is a lot like his band’s songs – deep, gloriously nerdy, sometimes wandering and wonderfully thoughtful. It’s a 400-page narrative from a perfectionist who calls himself “Mr. Bossypants.”


“It’s a compulsion to exhaust every possibility to make the perfect record,” he writes. “I don’t want to have to live with errors. Impossible, I know, what’s the effin’ point of not shooting for the moon?”

THE EVILS OF TOTALITARIANISM

Perhaps the most intriguing revelation in Lee’s autobiography – and something I had not known about – is a full chapter about what his parents went through in Eastern Europe during World War II.

The chapter, and what Lee learned from his parents’ horrific experiences in Hitler’s National Socialist concentration camps, seems to shed significant light on the libertarian and anti-authoritarian roots of so many of Lee’s art and Rush’s songs:

“Chapter 3 – Lee says you can skip it but you mustn’t – is a meticulous examination of the horrific paths his parents took into hell, a 40-page indictment of Nazi evil that starts in Poland and ends with his mom rescued at Bergen-Belsen and dad from Dachau. Lee’s laser-focus on details is put to astounding use here.”

Rush performing in 2004. Left to right: Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, Neil Peart (Creative Commons license)

The review’s overall verdict of the book is extremely positive:

“My Effin’ Life is an engrossing tale of a “classic underachiever” who became a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame vocalist, bassist and keyboard player. It’s a great read for anyone interested in the brilliant prog-rock trio or the music scene from the 1970s onward.”

THE 2023 PROMETHEUS HALL OF FAME FINALISTS

Note: Rush’s 1978 song “The Trees” is one of four finalists for the 2023 Prometheus Hall of Fame, which will be selected by Libertarian Futurist Society members in an all-membership balloted vote between late May and July 4.

The other finalists include Poul Anderson’s 1983 novel Orion Shall Rise, Terry Pratchet’s 2000 novel The Truth and Harry Turtledove’s 1998 novel Between the Rivers.

Here’s a capsule description of the Rush song:

“The Trees,” a 1978 song by Rush was released on the Canadian rock group’s album “Hemispheres”. The lyrics are by Neil Peart and the music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. The song warns against coerced equality in a beast fable – or in this case, a “tree fable.”

Peart poetically present a Nature-based fable of envy, “oppression” and misguided revolution motivated by a true-believer ideology of coercive egalitarianism.

The survival and individuality of different kinds of trees – both agitating Maples and lofty Oaks – are threatened when a seemingly “noble law” is adopted in the forest to keep the trees “equal by hatchet, axe and saw.”

For a capsule description of all four Hall of Fame finalists and why LFS members believe each one fits the Prometheus Award’s distinctive focus, see the recent LFS press release.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE LFS:

* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to all published essay-reviews in our Appreciation series of more than 100 past winners since 1979.

Watch videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies (including the recent 2023 ceremony with inspiring and amusing speeches by Prometheus-winning authors Dave Freer and Sarah Hoyt), Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards and support a cultural and literary strategy to appreciate and honor freedom-loving fiction, join the Libertarian Futurist Society, a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital in envisioning a freer and better future – and in some ways can be even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, peace, prosperity, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights, individuality and human dignity.

 

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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