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7 Greatest Rush Songs

7 Greatest Rush Songs

Rush is a band with dozens of hit songs under their belts. Their story is indeed impressive, from their first show in a church basement to sold-out stadiums across the globe.

The trio’s complex compositions also earned them several Grammy Award nominations and a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From English literature to sci-fi and fantasy, Rush’s work is a musical voyage.

We’re about to discover more about this iconic band and some of their best-known songs.

Let’s hit it!

About Rush 

Rush formed in Toronto, Ontario, in 1968. When drummer John Rutsey left the band in 1974, Neil Peart joined guitarist Alex Lifeson and singer/bassist Geddy Lee, solidifying the lineup. The trio’s unique take on progressive rock, often called “prog rock,” earned them fans around the world.

Peart’s sci-fi and fantasy-influenced lyrics and Lifeson and Lee’s complex songwriting made Rush prog pioneers. However, they also ventured into blues and hard rock, as well as synthesizer music. 

The band released 14 platinum records and 24 gold records over their career. They were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. In addition, Rush won multiple Juno Awards and received seven Grammy Awards nominations.

In 2015, the band announced they were taking a break from touring due to physical issues Peart and Lifeson were experiencing. Sadly, Neil Peart died of a rare brain cancer in 2020. However, Lifeson and Lee announced in 2021 that they planned to keep playing and working together.

7 Greatest Rush Songs

Rush produced no shortage of hits. Their distinctive sound and unique lyrics set them apart from other bands in the genre.

It would be impossible to pick one song as their best. So, in no particular order, here are seven of their greatest hits.

#1 The Trees

About the Song: Beginning with a quiet acoustic guitar melody, The Trees quickly transforms into a rock saga. The song’s woodsy metaphor describes a conflict between the oak and maple trees in a forest. But in the end, no single tree truly wins; they’re all made “equal” by the foresters who cut them down. 

Despite the song’s political undertones, Peart claimed in a 1980 interview with Modern Drummer that there was no hidden message. This track was voted number eight on Rolling Stone’s list of the ten best Rush songs.

Greatest Lyric:

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas

First Appearance: The Trees first appeared on Hemispheres, the band’s sixth studio album, released in 1978. The record also went platinum in 1993.

#2 Working Man

About the Song: Working Man describes the modern-day worker’s struggle to rest and feel fulfilled. Lee has described the song as his favorite to sing in concert.

This track is also largely responsible for putting Rush on the map in the U.S. Donna Halper, a DJ in Cleveland, Ohio, played Working Man on the air after its release. Cleveland’s blue-collar workers embraced the song, and the band’s surge in popularity earned them a record deal. Rush credited Halper with launching their career and even dedicated two albums to her.

Greatest Lyric:

It seems to me I could live my life
A lot better than I think I am
I guess that's why they call me
They call me the workin' man

First Appearance: Working Man appears on Rush’s self-titled album, which came out in 1974. It quickly became a favorite with their fans and remains one today.

#3 The Spirit of Radio

About the Song: The Spirit of Radio is a love song for the band’s hometown radio station, CFNY-FM. In fact, the title is the station’s slogan.

To stay true to the radio theme, Lifeson wanted to write a song that evoked radio static. The bouncing guitar melody intended to achieve this effect. The song also features a dub-reggae section. Over the years, Rush would explore that genre further.

Greatest Lyric:

Invisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free

First Appearance: The Spirit of Radio first appeared on the band’s seventh album, Permanent Waves. It was their first song to crack the top 30 on Canadian charts. It also reached number 51 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

#4 Limelight

About the Song: Limelight is one of the band’s most self-aware songs. In fact, Peart wrote it to confess his discomfort with celebrity status and life in the limelight. In a 1988 interview, Lee said this track was “probably more of Neil’s song than a lot of the songs on that album.”

But the song didn’t just resonate with Rush’s primary lyricist. Lifeson described the tune in terms of trying and failing to regain personal privacy after becoming famous. The guitarist has also said Limelight’s guitar solo is one of his favorites to play live.

Greatest Lyric:

Living in the limelight
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation

First Appearance: Limelight appears on Moving Pictures. The album, which was Rush’s eighth, came out in 1981.

#5 Xanadu

About the Song: Xanadu is one of the most beloved Rush songs. Peart’s lyrics were inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan. After gaining eternal life in the mythical land of Xanadu, the song’s narrator becomes a “mad immortal man.”

This song also kicked off the band’s synthesizer-heavy era and was recorded in just one take. After a quick partial run-through, the trio’s first studio recording became the album version.

Greatest Lyric:

To stand within the Pleasure Dome
Decreed by Kubla Khan
To taste anew the fruits of life
The last immortal man

First Appearance: Xanadu debuted on A Farewell to Kings, the band’s fifth record. The album reached the top 40 charts in the U.S. and the U.K.

#6 Subdivisions

About the Song: Subdivisions is a song about suburban angst. Frustrated with the default social order, the narrator expresses a desire to escape to the unknown. Peart described the lyrics as “hugely autobiographical.”

In 2010, Subdivisions was added to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Singer-songwriter Jacob Moon performed the hit at the ceremony in Rush’s stead.

Greatest Lyric:

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

First Appearance: This song is featured on Signals, the band’s ninth album. This record achieved top 10 chart status in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.

#7 Tom Sawyer

About the Song: One of their best-known songs, Tom Sawyer is Rush’s “defining piece,” according to Lee. This track was played on each of the band’s tours since its debut.

Peart co-wrote the lyrics to Tom Sawyer with Pye Dubois of the band Max Webster. It paints a portrait of a free spirit similar to Mark Twain’s character. The song was written during a stay on musician Ronnie Hawkins’s farm near Toronto. 

Greatest Lyric:

No, his mind is not for rent
To any god or government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
But change is

First Appearance: Tom Sawyer is a single from Moving Pictures. It’s also one of the most-played songs on U.S. classic rock radio stations.

Prog Rock Legends

Rush left their mark on the music world with numerous great songs. While helping to define prog rock, they inspired dozens of young musicians who are active today. Without the witty songs and complex compositions Rush is known for, rock and roll wouldn’t be the same.

But this list only scratches the surface of their impressive catalog of hits. You could easily spend a full day diving deeper into their albums and great songs.

What’s your favorite Rush song? Tell us in the comments below.

Gerry Fitzgerald

Saturday 6th of May 2023

Temple of syrinx, 2112.

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