Book Review: Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneer and Rush Geddy Lee Delves into Memoir, ‘The Life of Even’

Book Review: Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneer and Rush Geddy Lee Delves into Memoir, ‘The Life of Even’

Geddy Lee is a rock star, that’s undeniable. But he’s also a polite Canadian to the core. So it’s fitting that the Rush icon chose a non-scandalous title for his memoir.

“My Effin’ Life” is an interesting story about a “classic underachiever” who became a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer, guitarist and keyboardist. It’s a great read for anyone interested in the great prog rock trio or the music scene from the 1970s onwards.

Lee’s writing is very much like his band’s songs — deep, wonderfully manic, at times rambling and wonderfully thoughtful. It’s a 400-page novel from a perfectionist who calls himself “The Master.” Bossy pants.”

“It is compulsive to exhaust all possibilities to achieve the perfect record,” he writes. “I don’t want to live with mistakes. I know it’s impossible, but what’s the point of not shooting for the moon?

The book is enlivened by images of written lyric sheets, studio doodles and private emails as Lee traces the rise of a band that faced a pre-MTV scene, the lack of a coast-to-coast progressive radio network or sympathetic critics. One reviewer said he looked like an “amphetamine-addicted guinea pig.”

Readers will be transported chronologically as Rush—including guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer and lyricist Neil Peart—move from sleeping on luggage in the back of a rented station wagon to five-star hotels. Along the way there are questionable clothing choices like kimonos and a lot of cocaine.

The band – considered the patrons of intelligent, technical and ambitious rock music – draws on all sorts of sources, from Robert’s science fiction. Heinlein and J. R. R. Tolkien, to Ayn ​​Rand, Rod Serling, and Jean-Paul Sartre.

There is hard-earned advice for musicians, such as never believing any producer who says, “Don’t worry, guys. Everything will be fixed in the mix.” Lee also advises bands to demand final approval on everything, offer sound checks and take your wallet on stage. There is one piece of advice that seems universal: “Don’t drop the anesthetic before the interview.”

It’s fun to see Lee obsessing over audio equipment — like “a JP-8 with a modern sequencer fed by an 808 drum box” — and later wine. Sipping a glass of his 1978 Musigny may be the most rewarding experience he’s ever had.

A special treasure is seeing the photo – taken by a friend – that captured the moment Lee and his future wife, Nancy, locked lips for the first time. “How many people can boast of a 50-plus year relationship and still have a photo of their first kiss?” he is writing.

Lee casts shade on musician Billy Preston and producer Steve Lillywhite, but he also turns his critical eye to himself — his neuroses and his misbehavior — and his band, writing that with the Vapor Trails album, “They just disappeared off our asses.”

One thing to be careful of is Lee’s modesty, like the time he casually mentioned that he had become “infatuated” with baseball. In fact, he has a huge collection of baseball memorabilia, including balls signed by the Beatles and Joe Jackson.

Lee – whose real name was Gershon Eliezer Weinrib – was a “shy, long-haired, depressed person” who grew up in Toronto, the son of Holocaust survivors. This is not something he throws away, but rather causes reverberations throughout his life.

The third chapter – He Tells Me You Can Skip It, But You Shouldn’t – is a meticulous examination of his parents’ horrific routes to hell, a 40-page indictment of Nazi evil that begins in Poland and ends with his mother’s rescue in Bergen-Belsen and my father’s rescue from Dachau. Lee’s laser focus on detail is put to amazing use here.

He suspects that his first vocal style may have been rooted in his childhood, “listening to the stories of what my parents went through in the camps, going through all the bullying and isolation, so that when I started singing, it came rushing out like a song.” Banshee screams.”

This is a memoir where tragedy always seems around the corner, especially later when bandmate Bert is tortured by the loss. The memoir also ends with a scene in a Toronto cemetery where Lee introduces his grandson, Finnian, to the boy’s great-grandfather – on Earth.

It may be difficult in some parts but it is always worth it. It’s a good read.


Mark Kennedy is here


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