Geddy Lee

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Geddy Lee
Lee playing his Fender Jazz bass at a 2008 live performance at the Xcel Energy Center
Background information
Birth name Gary Lee Weinrib
Born (1953-07-29) July 29, 1953 (age 61)
Willowdale, Ontario, Canada
Genres Progressive rock, hard rock, heavy metal
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, producer
Instruments Bass guitar, vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, guitar
Years active 1968–present
Labels Mercury, Anthem, Atlantic
Associated acts Rush, Big Dirty Band
Notable instruments
Geddy Lee Signature model Jazz Bass
Rickenbacker 4001
Fender Jazz Bass
Custom Wal basses
Steinberger basses

Geddy Lee Weinrib (born Gary Lee Weinrib, July 29, 1953), OC,[1][2] known professionally as Geddy Lee, is a Canadian musician and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for the Canadian rock group Rush. Lee joined what would become Rush in September 1968, at the request of his childhood friend Alex Lifeson, replacing original bassist and frontman Jeff Jones.[3] In addition to his composing, arranging, and performing duties for Rush, Lee has produced for various other bands, including Rocket Science. Lee's first solo effort, My Favourite Headache, was released in 2000.

An award-winning musician, Lee's style, technique, and skill on the bass guitar have inspired many rock musicians such as Cliff Burton of Metallica,[4] Steve Harris of Iron Maiden,[5] John Myung of Dream Theater,[6] and Les Claypool of Primus.[7] Along with his Rush bandmates – guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart – Lee was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on May 9, 1996. The trio was the first rock band to be so honoured, as a group.[8] Lee is ranked 13th by Hit Parader on their list of the 100 Greatest Heavy Metal vocalists of all time.[9]


Early years[edit]

Lee was born Gary Lee Weinrib on July 29, 1953 in Willowdale, (North York) Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Morris and Mary Weinrib (née Manya Rubenstein).[1][10] Lee's stage name, Geddy, was inspired by his mother's heavily accented pronunciation of his given first name, Gary, and it later became his high school nickname before he adopted it as his stage name. In an interview written in Bass Frontiers Magazine, Lee explains; "My born name is Gary. My real name, now, is Geddy. Okay, it's like the same story of Leave it to Beaver. (laughs). The story goes: my mother is Polish and she has a very thick accent. When I was about twelve years old, I had a friend who, whenever he heard my mother pronounce my name, he thought she was calling me, 'Geddy'. He started calling me 'Geddy', and eventually, all of my friends started calling me 'Geddy', and eventually my mother started to call me 'Geddy', for real. And eventually, I changed my name legally to 'Geddy', so that's the story and that's my name, Geddy."[11]

Lee's parents were Jewish refugees from Poland who had been survivors of the Dachau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps during World War II. In 2004, Jweekly featured Lee's reflections on his mother's experiences as a refugee, and of his own Jewish heritage.[10] In an interview with Rob Tannenbaum of Maxim, Lee described the two most Jewish things about him as "[M]y nose and my sense of humor. I'm kind of a Jewish atheist: I bathe in the racial beauty of Judaism, but I don’t really see what that has to do with a belief in God. The only time I pray is on the tennis court."[12]

Lee attended the same elementary school as comedian Rick Moranis[13] as well as Montreal Canadiens forward Steve Shutt.[14]

Lee married Nancy Young in 1976. They have a son, Julian, and a daughter, Kyla.

Personal interests[edit]

Lee is an avid wine collector, with a particular penchant for the Burgundies[15] and a collection of some 5,000 bottles.[16] He takes annual trips to France, where he indulges in cheese and fine wine.[17] In 2011, a charitable foundation he supports, Grapes for Humanity, created the Geddy Lee Scholarship for students of winemaking at Niagara College.[18]

He is also a longtime fan of baseball. During his youth, he watched the Detroit Tigers, but his attention to the sport decreased when his interest in music began.[19] Once Rush began touring, he began to watch broadcasts of Chicago Cubs games, as they coincided with lulls in his schedule.[19] The 1977 Major League Baseball expansion added the Toronto Blue Jays to the American League, and Lee immediately became a fan of the team.[19] In the 1980s, Lee began reading the works of Bill James, particularly the The Bill James Baseball Abstracts, which led to an interest in sabermetrics and participation in a fantasy baseball keeper league.[19] He also collects baseball memorabilia.[20][21] He threw the ceremonial first pitch to inaugurate the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays season.[22]

On June 5, 2008, Lee donated his entire collection of nearly 200 autographed Negro League baseballs to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.[23][24][25] Bob Kendrick, a director at the museum stated, "Some of these guys have been dead for some time, and we could not get these (signatures) before no matter what their significance was in the Negro Leagues."[26]

Other hobbies he pursues include hiking, collecting monocles, long-distance cycling, tennis, art collecting, golf, and travelling.[20][21]

Body of work[edit]

The bulk of Lee's work in music has been with Rush (see Rush discography). However, Lee has also contributed to a body of work outside of his involvement with the band through guest appearances and album production. In 1981, Lee was the featured guest for the hit song "Take Off" and its included comedic commentary with Bob and Doug McKenzie (played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, respectively) for the McKenzie Brothers' comedy album Great White North. While Rush has had great success selling albums, "Take Off" is the highest charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 of Lee's career.

The following year, Lee produced the debut (and only) album from Toronto new wave band Boys Brigade. On the 1985 album We Are the World, by humanitarian consortium USA for Africa, Lee recorded guest vocals for the song "Tears Are Not Enough".[27] Apart from band contributions, Lee sang the Canadian National Anthem in front of a full crowd at Baltimore's Camden Yards for the 1993 All-Star Game.[28]

Another version of "O Canada" in rock format was recorded by Lee and Lifeson on the accompanying soundtrack CD for the Trey Parker and Matt Stone film South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut released in 1999.[29]

My Favourite Headache, Lee's first and only solo album to date, was released on November 14, 2000 while Rush was on a hiatus due to tragedies in drummer Neil Peart's life.[30] Lee appeared in Broken Social Scene's music video for their 2006 single "Fire Eye'd Boy", judging the band while they perform various musical tasks, and in 2006, Lee joined Lifeson's supergroup the Big Dirty Band, to provide songs accompanying Trailer Park Boys: The Movie.[31]

Lee also plays bass on Canadian rock band I Mother Earth's track "Good For Sule", which is featured on the group's album "Blue Green Orange", released in 1999.[29]

Lee has also been interviewed for such documentary films as "Metal: A Headbangers Journey" and "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage" as well as various episodes of the new VH1 Classic series "Metal Evolution".

Along with his bandmates, Lee played and sang along with Max Webster on the song "Battle Scar" from the Universal Juveniles (1980) album.[29]

In 2013, Lee made a brief cameo appearance as himself in the How I Met Your Mother eighth season episode "P.S. I Love You".

Vocal style[edit]

Lee's voice has been referred to as an "astoundingly high" tenor.[32] During Rush's early period, Lee's voice was described as a "Robert Plant-esque wail."[1] Beginning with the Permanent Waves album in 1980, Lee gradually changed his vocal style to a more restrained sound.[1]

Lee has said that he maintains "a fairly strict diet" in order to accommodate the vocal demands of his music before and during tours. He avoids dairy products, certain spices, and "highly acidic foods like vinegars and white wines."[17]

Equipment used[edit]

Lee has varied his equipment list continually throughout his career.

Bass guitars[edit]

Lee on tour with various basses and an acoustic guitar

In 1998, Fender released the Geddy Lee Jazz Bass, available in Black[33] and 3-Color Sunburst[34] (as of 2009).[35] This signature model is a recreation of Lee's favourite bass, a 1972 Fender Jazz that he bought in a pawn shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Lee has also been associated with Steinberger and Wal basses during the mid-late 80s, including a 5 string Wal bass. During earlier years he was most often associated with the Rickenbacker 4001.

Bass guitar amplification[edit]

For Rush's 2010 tour, Lee used two Orange AD200 bass heads together with two OBC410 4x10 bass cabinets.[36]

Keyboards and synthesizers[edit]

Geddy Lee playing his Roland Fantom X7 during the 2010–2011 Time Machine Tour

Over the years, Lee's keyboards have featured synthesizers from Oberheim (Eight-voice, OB-1, OB-X, OB-Xa), PPG (Wave 2.2 and 2.3), Roland (Jupiter 8, D-50, XV-5080, and a Fantom X7 starting on the Snakes & Arrows Tour), Moog (Minimoog, Taurus bass pedals, Moog Little Phatty[37]), and Yamaha (DX7, Yamaha KX76). Lee used sequencers early in their development and has continued to use similar innovations as they have developed over the years. Lee has also made use of digital samplers. Combined, these electronic devices have supplied many memorable keyboard sounds, such as the "growl" in "Tom Sawyer" and the melody featured in the chorus of "The Spirit of Radio".

With 1993's Counterparts, Rush reduced most keyboard- and synthesizer-derived sounds in their compositions, and they continued to do so with each successive album. In 2002, the band produced an album—Vapor Trails—that was completely free of keyboards and synthesizers, featuring only voice, guitar, bass guitar, drums and percussion. With the release of 2007's Snakes & Arrows, Lee sparingly adds a Mellotron and bass pedals to the instrument line-up. However, it does not mark a return to a "synth" sound for the band. Much like Vapor Trails, the music is primarily recorded with multiple layers of guitars, bass, drums and percussion.

Live performances: special equipment[edit]

Recreating unique sounds[edit]

Newer advances in synthesizer and sampler technology have allowed Lee to store familiar sounds from his old synthesizers alongside new ones in combination synthesizer/samplers, such as the Roland XV-5080. For live shows in 2002 and 2004, Lee and his keyboard technician used the playback capabilities of the XV-5080 to generate virtually all of Rush's keyboard sounds to date, as well as additional complex sound passages that previously required several machines at once to produce.[38]

When playing live, Lee and his bandmates recreate their songs as accurately as possible with digital samplers. Using these samplers, the band members are able to recreate, in real-time, the sounds of non-traditional instruments, accompaniments, vocal harmonies, and other sound "events" that are familiar to those who have heard Rush songs from their albums.

To trigger these sounds in real-time, Lee uses MIDI controllers, placed at the locations on the stage where he has a microphone stand. Lee uses two types of MIDI controllers: one type resembles a traditional synthesizer keyboard on a stand (Yamaha KX76). The second type is a large foot-pedal keyboard, placed on the stage floor (Korg MPK-130, Roland PK-5). Combined, they enable Lee to use his free hands and feet to trigger sounds in electronic equipment that has been placed off-stage.[38] It is with this technology that Lee and his bandmates are able to present their arrangements in a live setting with the level of complexity and fidelity that fans have come to expect, and without the need to resort to the use of backing tracks or employing an additional band member.[39] A notable exception of this was during the Clockwork Angels Tour, when a string ensemble played string parts, which were originally arranged and conducted by David Campbell on Clockwork Angels.[40]

Lee's (and his bandmates') use of MIDI controllers to trigger sampled instruments and audio events is visible throughout the R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour concert DVD (2005).

From the Snakes and Arrows tour onwards, Lee used a Roland Fantom X7 and a Moog Little Phatty synthesizer.

Unique stage equipment[edit]

Rush live in concert with rotisseries and chef in background

Since 1996, Lee no longer uses traditional bass amplifiers on stage, and prefers to have the bass guitar signals input directly to the venue's front-of-house console, to improve control and balance of sound reinforcement during live concerts. Faced with the dilemma of what to do with the empty space left behind by the lack of large amplifier cabinets, Lee chose to decorate his side of the stage with unusual items.

For the 1996–1997 Test for Echo Tour, Lee's side sported a fully stocked old-fashioned household refrigerator. For the 2002 Vapor Trails tour, Lee lined his side of the stage with three coin-operated Maytag dryers. Other large appliances appeared later in the same space. For visual effect they were "miked" by the sound crew, just as a real amplifier would be. Rush's crew loaded the dryers with specially-designed Rush-themed T-shirts, different from the shirts on sale to the general public. At the close of each show, Lee and Lifeson tossed these T-shirts into the audience. The dryers can be seen on the Rush in Rio DVD and the R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour DVD. For the band's R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour tour, one dryer was replaced with a rotating shelf-style vending machine. It too was fully stocked and operational during shows. The vending machine can be seen on the R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour DVD.

The Snakes & Arrows Tour prominently featured three Henhouse brand rotisserie chicken ovens on stage complete with an attendant in a chef's hat and apron to "tend" the chickens during shows.[41] For the 2010–2011 Time Machine Tour, Lee's side of the stage featured a steampunk-inspired combination Time Machine and Sausage Maker, with an attendant occasionally throwing material into its feed hopper during the show. During the 2012-2013 Clockwork Angels Tour, Lee used a different steampunk device called a "Geddison" as a backdrop. This was composed of a giant old-style phonograph horn, an oversized model brain in a jar, a set of brass horns, and a working popcorn popper.



  1. ^ a b c d Prato, Greg. "Geddy Lee: Biography". Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Henderson, John. "Judge tosses bandmates' claims over Rush guitarist's 2003 scuffle". Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
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  15. ^ Bolton, Greg (April 2005). "A Wine Cellar That Rocks!". CityBites Magazine. Retrieved March 26, 2011. "By any standard, it's an impressive cellar, but as it turns out, it's not the main attraction. As we leave, he pauses. 'I built this one thinking it was bigger than I'd ever need, but…' His voice trails off as he chuckles sheepishly and walks me down the hall. Arriving at another door – identical to the first – he extracts a key from his pocket and flips a light-switch to reveal a collection more extensive and refined than you’d find in most top-end restaurants. I emit a low whistle. 'I've gotten a bit out of control,' he admits." 
  16. ^ Brunner, Rob (March 13, 2009). "Three rounds with...Geddy Lee". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 3, 2011. "He's also, it turns out, a wine fanatic. (His home cellars hold almost 5,000 bottles.)" 
  17. ^ a b Vaziri, Aidin (September 15, 2002). "Rush front man wants to put time on hold". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 3, 2011. "I go to France every year, and you can't go there without eating cheese and drinking white wine. You just can't do it. It's not possible." 
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  19. ^ a b c d Berg, Ted (26 February 2013). "Rush singer Geddy Lee expecting big year for Blue Jays". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  20. ^ a b "Geddy Lee". Fender News. Fender. 2010. Retrieved March 26, 2011. "Aside from the family stuff, I have a ton of different hobbies. I like long-distance cycling; I do that. Big tennis guy. I play a lot of tennis. I’m a collector—I collect baseball ephemera; I collect art. And I’m a big wine nut. So a lot of those things inspire different kinds of travel, and I do a lot of traveling." 
  21. ^ a b Harkness, Geoff (November 30, 2000). "Seven questions with Geddy Lee". Lawrence. Retrieved March 26, 2011. "I love to hike. I love to bike. My wife and I are huge travelers. We like to do all sorts of adventure and exotic travel. I'm a dedicated tennis player and a wine collector and a collector of baseball memorabilia. I'm a huge baseball fan. I collect photographs. I love art. I love to read." 
  22. ^ "Rush's Geddy Lee to throw out 1st pitch at Blue Jays opener". CBC News. The Canadian Press. 27 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
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  25. ^ Dent, Mark (June 6, 2008). "Geddy Lee of Rush Donates 200 Signed Negro League Baseballs". Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  26. ^ Dent, Mark (June 6, 2008). "Geddy Lee Donates 200 Signed Negro League Baseballs". Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  27. ^ Humanitarian consortium
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  39. ^ Peart, Neil Rush Backstage Club Newsletter, March 1990, via "Power Windows" Rush Fan Site
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