Limelight (song)

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The record's face is a series of skyscrapers
Single by Rush
from the album Moving Pictures
ReleasedFebruary 28, 1981 (1981-02-28)
RecordedOctober – November 1980
StudioLe Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec
Rush singles chronology
"Tom Sawyer"
"Vital Signs"
Audio sample
Music video
"Limelight" on YouTube

"Limelight" is a song by the Canadian progressive rock band Rush. It first appeared on the 1981 album Moving Pictures. The song's lyrics were written by Neil Peart with music written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. "Limelight" expresses Peart's discomfort with Rush's success and the resulting attention from the public. The song paraphrases the opening lines of the "All the world's a stage" speech from William Shakespeare's play As You Like It; the band had previously used the phrase for its 1976 live album. The lyrics also refer to "the camera eye", the title of the song that follows on the Moving Pictures album.

Released as a single, it charted at No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Top Tracks chart and No. 55 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and remains one of Rush's most popular songs. It is the third most-played Canadian song from before 1988 on Canadian rock music radio stations.[citation needed] "Limelight" was one of five Rush songs inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on March 28, 2010.[1]


In "Limelight", lyricist Neil Peart comments on the band's commercial success and the fame and its demands that come with rock star status. According to guitarist Alex Lifeson, the song "is about being under the microscopic scrutiny and the need for privacy—trying to separate the two and not always being successful at it".[2] Bassist Geddy Lee describes the motivation for "Limelight" in a 1988 interview:

Limelight was probably more of Neil's song than a lot of the songs on that album in the sense that his feelings about being in the limelight and his difficulty with coming to grips with fame and autograph seekers and a sudden lack of privacy and sudden demands on his time ... he was having a very difficult time dealing with. I mean we all were, but I think he was having the most difficulty of the three of us adjusting; in the sense that I think he's more sensitive to more things than Alex [Lifeson] and I are, it's difficult for him to deal with those interruptions on his personal space and his desire to be alone. Being very much a person who needs that solitude, to have someone coming up to you constantly and asking for your autograph is a major interruption in your own little world.[3]

In a 2007 interview, Alex Lifeson gives his take on "Limelight":

It's funny: after all these years, the solo to "Limelight" is my favourite to play live. There's something very sad and lonely about it; it exists in its own little world. And I think, in its own way, it reflects the nature of the song's lyrics—feeling isolated amidst chaos and adulation.[4]

Recording and live performance[edit]

Lifeson's guitar solo was performed on what he called a "Hentor Sportscaster", a modified Fender Stratocaster equipped with a Floyd Rose vibrato arm. Critics frequently point out Lifeson's use of vibrato in the solo,[5] with Max Mobley writing that it "is dripping with Floyd Rose whammy".[6] "Limelight" has been described as Lifeson's "signature song",[7] and critics cite the influence of Allan Holdsworth.[8] Lifeson himself calls it his favourite solo.[9]

The song was a staple of Rush's live performances, having been played on every tour since its release except the Grace Under Pressure Tour (1984), the Presto Tour (1990), and the R40 Live Tour (2015).[6]



Geddy Lee - bass, keyboards, vocals

Alex Lifeson - guitars

Neil Peart - drums, percussion



Terry Brown

other musicians

Terry Brown (uncertain) - backing vocals

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Infantry, Ashante (January 20, 2010). "(News) New home a place to sing praises of our songwriters". The Toronto Star. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  2. ^ Morse, Tim (1998). Classic Rock Stories: The Stories Behind the Greatest Songs of All Time. St. Martin's Press. p. 104. ISBN 9781429937504.
  3. ^ "Rush, Moving Pictures: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, the late Neil Peart". In the Studio with Redbeard. c. 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  4. ^ Joe Bosso (July 2007). "Vital Signs". Guitar World.
  5. ^ Guitar All-in-One For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. 2011. p. 266. ISBN 9780470550182.
  6. ^ a b Mobley, Max (2014). Rush FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Rock's Greatest Power Trio. Backbeat. pp. 120–21, 190. ISBN 9781617136047.
  7. ^ Kitts, Jeff; Tolinski, Brad (2002). Guitar World Presents the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time!: From the Pages of Guitar World Magazine. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 82. ISBN 9780634046193.
  8. ^ Prown, Pete; Newquist, Harvey P. (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. Hal Leonard. p. 167. ISBN 9780793540426.
  9. ^ Guitar World Presents Dear Guitar Hero: The World's Most Celebrated Guitarists Answer Their Fans' Most Burning Questions. Backbeat Books. May 1, 2012. pp. 16–17. ISBN 9781476813592.
  10. ^ "'Playing House' recap: Making big, huge mistakes". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  11. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0326." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  12. ^ "Rush Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  13. ^ "Rush Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard.
  14. ^ "RPM's Top 100 Hit Tracks of 1981". RPM. Vol. 63 no. 12. December 26, 1998. p. 20. Retrieved January 9, 2021.

External links[edit]