Tom Sawyer (song)

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"Tom Sawyer"
Single by Rush
from the album Moving Pictures
B-side "Witch Hunt" (USA)
"A Passage to Bangkok" (UK)
Released February 28, 1981
Format 7"
Recorded October - November 1980 at Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec
Genre Progressive rock, hard rock
Length 4:33
Label Mercury
Writer(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)
Moving Pictures track listing
Beginning of Album "Tom Sawyer"
"Red Barchetta"
Exit...Stage Left track listing
"Tom Sawyer"
"La Villa Strangiato"
Music 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 song relies heavily on Geddy Lee's synthesizer playing and Neil Peart's drumming. 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. It peaked at #25 on the UK Singles chart in October 1981,[2] at #44 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and at #8 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart.[3] In 2009 it was named the 19th-greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.[4] "Tom Sawyer" was one of five Rush songs inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on March 28, 2010.[5]

Background and recording[edit]

The song was written by Lee, 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 entire 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")[6] 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.[7][8]

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

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

Other uses[edit]

  • "Pass The Mic, Tom: Beastie Boys vs. Rush" by Melody Lanes is a mashup of "Tom Sawyer" and the Beastie Boys' "Pass the Mic."
  • "All Night," a song by Mike Shinoda featuring Styles of Beyond from his mixtape We Major samples "Tom Sawyer".
  • Used as entrance music by professional wrestler Kerry Von Erich.[10] He used the ring name "Modern Day Warrior" early in his career, a reference to the song.
  • All-Pro Football 2K8 has the song in its soundtrack.
  • The 2007-2008 Snakes & Arrows Tour included a video intro for the song featuring characters from the TV series South Park. The sequence shows Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny, referred to as "Lil' Rush," attempting to play the song, which Cartman sings incorrectly. He is told to start the song over, at which point Rush would begin playing the song.[11]
  • Until late 2012, The Toucher and Rich Show on the Boston radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston used the song (with alternate lyrics) as the intro to their final segment, "You Listened, Now Discuss."
  • On his 2013 tour, Kid Rock used an instrumental portion of "Tom Sawyer" as the beat for his song "Forever."
  • "Chick Cancer", the seventh episode of Season 5 of the adult serial Family Guy references Rush. One scene shows Chester Cheetah, the mascot for Cheetos, snorting Cheetos in a cocaine-like fashion while listening to Tom Sawyer, declaring "There is no fucking drummer better than Neil Peart!". A Rush poster is also seen in the background.
  • "Tom Sawyer" was included in the video game Rock Band as a playable song, as well as being available as downloadable content for Rock Band 2 and all later games in the series.
  • "Tom Sawyer" was used as opening song for the movie The Infiltrator

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rush Press Conference in Puerto Rico, April 9, 2008
  2. ^ UK Charts 1981, accessed July 17, 2008
  3. ^ "Rush Charts & Awards Billboard Singles". AllMusic. 
  4. ^ " music". Retrieved February 7, 2009. 
  5. ^ Infantry, Ashante (2010-01-20). "(News) New home a place to sing praises of our songwriters". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2010-06-16. 
  6. ^ Popoff, Martin. Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home and Away. ECW Press. ISBN 1-55022-678-9. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Joe Bosso (July 2007). "Vital Signs". Guitar World. 
  10. ^ "The 50 greatest WWE entrance themes ever!". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  11. ^ YouTube

External links[edit]