Tom Sawyer (song)

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"Tom Sawyer"
Tom Sawyer.gif
Single by Rush
from the album Moving Pictures
ReleasedFebruary 28, 1981
RecordedOctober – November 1980
StudioLe Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec
Songwriter(s)Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson, Pye Dubois
Producer(s)Rush and Terry Brown
Rush singles chronology
"Entre Nous"
"Tom Sawyer"

"Vital Signs"

""Tom Sawyer" (Live)"

""Closer to the Heart" (Live)"
Audio sample
"Tom Sawyer" from Moving Pictures.

"Tom Sawyer" is a song by Canadian rock band Rush, originally released on their 1981 album Moving Pictures as its opener. The band's lead singer, bassist, and keyboardist, Geddy Lee, has referred to the track as the band's "defining piece of music ... from the early '80s".[1] It is one of Rush's best-known songs and a staple of both classic rock radio and Rush's live performances, having been played on every concert tour since its release.

Background and recording[edit]

The song was written by Lee, drummer Neil Peart, and guitarist Alex Lifeson in collaboration with lyricist Pye Dubois of the band Max Webster, who also co-wrote the Rush songs "Force Ten", "Between Sun and Moon", and "Test for Echo". According to the US radio show In the Studio with Redbeard (which devoted an episode to the making of Moving Pictures), "Tom Sawyer" came about during a summer rehearsal vacation that Rush spent at Ronnie Hawkins' farm outside Toronto. Peart was presented with a poem by Dubois named "Louis the Lawyer" (often incorrectly cited as "Louis the Warrior")[2] that he modified and expanded. Lee and Lifeson then helped set the poem to music. The "growling" synthesizer sound heard in the song came from Lee experimenting with his Oberheim OB-X.[3][4] For "Tom Sawyer", Lee switched from his Rickenbacker 4001 to a Fender Jazz Bass he purchased from a pawn shop.[5]

In the December 1985 Rush Backstage Club newsletter, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart said:

Tom Sawyer was a collaboration between myself and Pye Dubois, an excellent lyricist who wrote the lyrics for Max Webster. His original lyrics were kind of a portrait of a modern day rebel, a free-spirited individualist striding through the world wide-eyed and purposeful. I added the themes of reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be—namely me, I guess.

Alex Lifeson describes his guitar solo in "Tom Sawyer" in a 2007 interview:

I winged it. Honest! I came in, did five takes, then went off and had a cigarette. I'm at my best for the first two takes; after that, I overthink everything and I lose the spark. Actually, the solo you hear is composed together from various takes.[6]


Single release[edit]

The song peaked at No. 24 in Canada, No. 44 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and No. 8 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart.[7] The studio version of "Tom Sawyer", despite its popularity, did not see a single-release in other territories. In the U.K., "Vital Signs" was chosen as the single from "Moving Pictures".

However, the live-version from Exit...Stage Left peaked at No. 25 on the UK Singles chart in October 1981 [8]

In 2009 it was named the 19th-greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.[9] "Tom Sawyer" was one of five Rush songs inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on March 28, 2010.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rush Press Conference in Puerto Rico, April 9, 2008 Archived July 23, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Popoff, Martin. Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home and Away. ECW Press. ISBN 1-55022-678-9.
  3. ^ "Oberheim OB-X". Vintage Synth Explorer. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  4. ^ Skuse, Andy (March 30, 2008). "The Tom Sawyer 'Growl Sound'". Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  5. ^ Rush's Geddy Lee on his Fender USA Geddy Lee Jazz Bass, Fender, April 30, 2015, retrieved February 8, 2018 – via YouTube
  6. ^ Bosso, Joe (July 2007). "Vital Signs". Guitar World.
  7. ^ "Rush Charts & Awards Billboard Singles". AllMusic.
  8. ^ UK Charts 1981 Archived September 30, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, accessed July 17, 2008
  9. ^ " music". Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  10. ^ Infantry, Ashante (January 20, 2010). "(News) New home a place to sing praises of our songwriters". Toronto Star. Retrieved June 16, 2010.

External links[edit]