Geddy Lee

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Geddy Lee
OC
GeddyLee.JPG
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
Website rush.com
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 life[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).[10][11] His parents were Jewish refugees from Poland who had been survivors of the Dachau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps during World War II.

His parents gave him a Jewish education, with a bar mitzvah at 13. His father, who had a musical background, died the year before from health problems resulting from his imprisonment. Today, Lee considers himself a cultural Jew. Jweekly featured Lee's reflections on his mother's experiences as a refugee, and of his own Jewish heritage.[11] Lee's name, Geddy, was derived from his mother's heavily accented pronunciation of his given first name, Gary, and his high school friends used it, which he later made his stage and legal name.[12]

In 1984, after Rush had become a widely recognized rock group, Lee told the story about his mother to their group's drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart, who on his own, then wrote lyrics based on her life for a song, "Red Sector A." Lee wrote the music and it was included in their album Grace Under Pressure (1984). A portion of the lyrics:

I hear the sound of gunfire at the prison gate
Are the liberators here?
Do I hope or do I fear?
For my father and my brother, it's too late
But I must help my mother stand up straight[13]

Music career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Lee began playing music in school when he was 9 or 10, and got his first acoustic guitar at 14. In school, he first played drums, trumpet and clarinet. However, learning to play instruments in school wasn't satisfying, and he took basic piano lessons on his own. His interest increased dramatically after listening to some of the popular rock groups, when his early influences included Jack Bruce, of Cream, John Entwistle, of The Who, Jeff Beck, Procol Harum, along with with Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, of Led Zeppelin.[10] "I was mainly interested in early British progressive rock," said Lee. "That's how I learned to play bass, emulating Jack Bruce and people like that."[14] Bruce's style of music was also noticed by Lee, who liked that "his sound was distinctive-it wasn't boring."[14]

Beginning in 1969, Rush began playing professionally in coffeehouses, high school dances and at various outdoor recreational events. By 1971, they were now playing mostly original songs in small clubs and bars, including Toronto's Gasworks and Abbey Road Pub.[15] Lee describes the group during these early years as being "weekend warriors," holding down jobs during the weekdays and playing music on weekends: "We longed to break out of the boring surrounding of the suburbs and the endless similarities . . . the shopping plazas and all that stuff. . . the music was a vehicle for us to speak out."[15] He claims that in the beginning they were simply "a straightforward rock band."[15]

Style[edit]

Lee's singing style was inspired primarily by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, who also sang with high vocals. And like Cream, Rush was a "power trio," with Lee both playing bass and singing. Lee's vocals produced a distinctive, "countertenor" falsetto, and resonant sound.[15] His singing style was unique, however, having the ability to span nearly three octaves, from baritone through tenor, alto, and mezzo-soprano pitch ranges.[15] That range was displayed in their best-known song, "Working Man", from the group's 1974 debut album, Rush. However, Lee's singing style combined with the group's desire to play original material at high decibel levels limited their performance opportunities for about six years.

Short of money, they began opening concerts at places such as Toronto's Victory Burlesque Theatre for the punk band, New York Dolls.[15] By 1972 Rush began performing full-length concerts, mainly original songs, in cities including Toronto and Detroit. But as their music became known, they were able to perform the opening acts for groups including Aerosmith, Kiss, and Blue Öyster Cult.[16]

Rising popularity[edit]

After a number of early albums and increasing popularity, their status as a rock group soared over the following five years as they consistently toured worldwide and produced successful albums, including 2112 (1976), A Farewell to Kings (1977), Hemispheres (1978), Permanent Waves (1980), and Moving Pictures (1981). The group's distinctiveness was enhanced when Lee began adding synthesizers in 1977, with the release of A Farewell to Kings. The additional sounds expanded the group's "textual capabilities," states keyboard critic Greg Armbruster, and allowed the trio to produce an orchestrated and more complex progressive rock music style.[16] It also gave Lee the ability to play bass at the same time, as he could control the synthesizer with foot pedals. In 1981, he won Keyboard magazine's poll as "Best New Talent."[16] By 1984 Lee was surrounding himself with stacks of keyboards on stage, now becoming a multi-keyboardist, a talent first displayed in the album Grace Under Pressure (1984).[16]

By the 1980s, Rush had become one of the "biggest rock bands on the planet," selling out arena seats when touring.[10][12] Lee was considered the most prominent member of the group, being the lead vocalist and known for his dynamic stage movements. According to music critic Tom Mulhern, writing in 1980, "it's dazzling to see so much sheer energy expended without a nervous breakdown."[14] By 1996, with their Test for Echo Tour, they began performing without an opening act, their shows lasting nearly three hours.[17]

Music industry writer Christopher Buttner, who interviewed Lee in 1996, described him as a prodigy and "role model" for what every musician wants to be, noting his proficiency on stage. He's able to vary time signatures, play multiple keyboards, use bass pedal controllers and control sequencers, all while singing lead vocals into as many as three microphones. Buttner adds that few musicians of any instrument "can juggle half of what Geddy can do without literally falling on their ass."[12] As a result, notes Mulhern, Lee's instrumentation was the "pulse" of the group and created a "one-man rhythm section," which complimented guitarist Alex Lifeson and percussionist Neil Peart.[14] Bass player James Jamerson, credits Lee's "biting, high-end bass lines and creative synthesizer work" for helping the group become "one of the most innovative" of all the supergroups that play arena rock.[18] By 1989, Guitar Player magazine had already designated Lee the "Best Rock Bass" player from their reader's poll for the previous five years.[18]

A number of musicians state they were influenced by Rush, among them, Cliff Burton of Metallica,[19] Steve Harris of Iron Maiden,[20] John Myung of Dream Theater,[6] and Les Claypool of Primus.[21]

Music separate from Rush[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".[22] 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.[23]

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.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26]

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.[24]

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.[24]

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".

Personal life[edit]

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

Lee is an avid wine collector with a collection of 5,000 bottles.[27] He takes annual trips to France, where he indulges in cheese and fine wine.[28] In 2011, a charitable foundation he supports, Grapes for Humanity, created the Geddy Lee Scholarship for students of winemaking at Niagara College.[29]

He is also a longtime fan of baseball, with favorite teams including the Detroit Tigers, [30] the Chicago Cubs, and the Toronto Blue Jays.[30] 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.[30] He also collects baseball memorabilia, once donating part of his collection to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum,[31] and threw the ceremonial first pitch to inaugurate the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays season.[32][33]

Other hobbies he pursues include hiking, collecting monocles, long-distance cycling, tennis, art collecting, golf, and travelling.[33]

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[34] and 3-Color Sunburst[35] (as of 2009).[36] 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.[37]

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[38]), 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.[39]

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.[39] 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.[40] 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.[41]

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.[42] 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.

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Prato, Greg. "Geddy Lee: Biography". allmusic.com. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Henderson, John. "Judge tosses bandmates' claims over Rush guitarist's 2003 scuffle". Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Banasiewicz, Bill. "Rush Visions: The Official Biography". Archived from the original on February 23, 2007. Retrieved March 10, 2007. 
  4. ^ "CLIFF BURTON R.I.P. - 1986". metallicaworld.co.uk. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  5. ^ "Steve Harris Biography". ironmiaden.webvis.net. Archived from the original on January 4, 2007. Retrieved December 18, 2006. 
  6. ^ a b "Geddy Lee/Rush: Artist's Bio". Fender.com. Retrieved March 19, 2010. [dead link]
  7. ^ "You Say It's Your Birthday: Les Claypool of Primus" Addicted to Noise
  8. ^ "Rush highlights", MapleMusic (accessed May 23, 2007).
  9. ^ oz (December 4, 2006). "Hit Parader's Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time". Hearya.com. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c Prato, Greg. "Biography of Geddy Lee", All Music
  11. ^ a b Benarde, Scott R. "How the Holocaust rocked Rush front man Geddy Lee". jweekly.com. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c Buttner, Christopher (November 1996). "Geddy Lee: The Reluctant Rockstar". Bass Frontiers Magazine. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  13. ^ "Red Sector A", video clip
  14. ^ a b c d Tom Mulhern, Bass Heroes: Styles, Stories and Secrets of 30 Great Bass Players, Backbear Books (1993) p. 110
  15. ^ a b c d e f Bowman, Durrell. Experiencing Rush: A Listener's Companion, Rowman & Littlefield (2015) pp. 3-7
  16. ^ a b c d Armbruster, Greg. Keyboard Magazine, Sept. 1984
  17. ^ Rolling Stone, Dec. 12, 1996
  18. ^ a b Jamerson, James. Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Hal Leonard Corp. (1989) p. 125
  19. ^ "CLIFF BURTON R.I.P. - 1986". metallicaworld.co.uk. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  20. ^ "Steve Harris Biography". ironmiaden.webvis.net. Archived from the original on January 4, 2007. Retrieved December 18, 2006. 
  21. ^ "You Say It's Your Birthday: Les Claypool of Primus" Addicted to Noise
  22. ^ Humanitarian consortium Answers.com
  23. ^ "Geddy Lee: rock star and baseball fan". The Sporting News. April 13, 2007. 
  24. ^ a b c "Virtual Songs - Side Projects". 2112.net. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  25. ^ Prato, Greg. "My Favorite Headache - Overview". allmusic.com. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  26. ^ "Film, Television And Video Cameos". 2112.net. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  27. ^ Bolton, Greg (April 2005). "A Wine Cellar That Rocks!". CityBites Magazine. greatrecrooms.com. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  28. ^ Vaziri, Aidin (September 15, 2002). "Rush front man wants to put time on hold". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 3, 2011. 
  29. ^ "Rush frontman honoured by scholarship endowment". Decanter.com. 2011-11-27. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  30. ^ a b c Berg, Ted (26 February 2013). "Rush singer Geddy Lee expecting big year for Blue Jays". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  31. ^ Dent, Mark (June 6, 2008). "Geddy Lee Donates 200 Signed Negro League Baseballs". rushisaband.com. Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  32. ^ "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. 
  33. ^ a b Harkness, Geoff (November 30, 2000). "Seven questions with Geddy Lee". lawrence.com. Lawrence. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  34. ^ "Fender Products: Geddy Lee Jazz Bass". Fender.com. January 22, 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2010. [dead link]
  35. ^ "Fender Products: Geddy Lee Jazz Bass". Fender.com. January 22, 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2010. [dead link]
  36. ^ "Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass". Fender.com. Retrieved March 2, 2011. [dead link]
  37. ^ "Geddy Lee endorses Orange Bass Amps". rushisaband.com. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  38. ^ Lee, Geddy. "The Snakes & Arrows Tour Book". 2112.net. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  39. ^ a b "Rush Rolls Again", September 2002, OnStage Magazine
  40. ^ Peart, Neil Rush Backstage Club Newsletter, March 1990, via "Power Windows" Rush Fan Site
  41. ^ Graff, Gary (18 June 2012). "Rush Bringing String Ensemble on Tour". Billboard. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  42. ^ Jamie Thomson. "Rush concert review: Wembley Arena, London. Friday, October 12, 2007.", The Guardian. Retrieved March 1, 2008.
  43. ^ "Diamond Jubilee Gala toasts exceptional Canadians". CBC. 18 June 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 

External links[edit]