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Song of the Weekend: Rush – “Limelight”

I’ve been a fan of the music of Rush for over 30 years now.  It still boggles my mind how 3 people can make such amazing music.  I’ve seen groups with more than twice the number of players not equal their sound.  When you see them live there are no theatrics or distractions – they just play.   Their musicianship is quite extraordinary with each of them probably being one of the top players of their instrument in rock music over the past 4 decades.  However, it seems like they rarely seek recognition or adulation – they just go about their business and do what they love.  They are content to write great songs with real thought and meaning behind them.  My guess is that they tour for their own enjoyment and to celebrate the experience with their fans.  It hasn’t been a question of money for a very long time.

While they are all underrated for their abilities, I believe Neil Peart is probably one of the best lyricists in the history of modern music.  It’s not often that drummers take the lead in this role but he has excelled at it.  At times he comes across as a storyteller weaving yarns in concept albums that capture your imagination and attention.  In other instances, he comments on current events and social issues with very astute observations tapping into what many of us are experiencing and feeling.  He also doesn’t write to the lowest common denominator, but instead challenges his audience to think and be reasonably well read.

The song “Limelight” is one of my favorites.  Long before modern societies current fascination with fame for the sake of fame itself (a troubling sociological development), the band was reflecting back their own experience and the potential downsides of becoming too famous.  I’m sure many of their contemporaries can relate to the sentiment and got lost in the fog of success. 

Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage.

Cast in this unlikely role,
Ill-equipped to act,
With insufficient tact,
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact.

Living in the Limelight,
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem.
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation,
Get on with the fascination,
The real relation,
The underlying theme.

Living in a fisheye lens,
Caught in the camera eye.
I have no heart to lie,
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long-awaited friend.

All the world’s indeed a stage,
And we are merely players,
Performers and portrayers,
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage.

You can always tell when an artist loses sight of the art and becomes enamored with the spectacle of being famous.  Rush more than any other band that I follow comes across as three guys who enjoy each other’s company and like to make music together. I doubt it would matter whether the venue was their basement or Madison Square Garden.  Those of us who are fans are lucky they continue to do it.


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