A Show of Hands

Rush bassist/lead singer Geddy Lee is a rock icon. He is also Gary Lee Weinrib, born in Willowdale, Toronto, to Holocaust survivors Mary and Morris Weinrib. Perhaps this provides a clue as to why so many confused suburban teenage boys—myself included—spent hours in their respective dimly lit basements air-guitaring along to Rush—because Lee himself was once a confused suburban teenage boy grappling with self-confidence, religion and identity. These weighty themes of alienation and insecurity resurface time and time again throughout Rush’s 19-album catalogue—whether it’s exemplified by the self-proclaimed cast-outs in “Subdivisions,” the pent-up, corporate slave in “Working Man” or the powerless puppet in “Freewill.” Recently, I chatted with Lee during one of his rare breaks from a nearly 30-year touring schedule, releasing Rush’s new album, Retrospective III, and from racking up the praise for his cinematic turn in the new Paul Rudd/Jason Segel comedy, I Love You, Man.

When did Gary Weinrib become Geddy Lee?

Lee was my middle name, and my friends all called me ‘Geddy’ ever since I was 11 or 12. A friend of mine started calling me that because he had assumed that that was how my mother
was pronouncing ‘Gary.’ She had a [Polish] accent.

Is there a real difference between Gary and Geddy?
Yeah, in a certain way I felt like I was leaving the little nerd from the suburbs behind and becoming a rock star.

My favorite record is Grace Under Pressure (1984). The single ‘Red Sector A’ is about the Holocaust, correct?
That song goes back to a story my mother told me about being liberated [from Bergen-Belsen] and how she wasn’t quite sure what was going on. She was in a section of the camp, working and looked out the window to see all these soldiers with their arms up. She thought this was some sort of new salute to Hitler. She hadn’t realized that they were being liberated. But when she finally realized, her first reaction was, ‘What took you so long?’ All the while, she had assumed the rest of the world was suffering as well and going through similar conditions….When I told this story to Neil [Peart] (drummer and lyricist), parts of the story had some impact on him, and he came up with ‘Red Sector A.’


You went back to the camps not too long ago?

Yeah, I went with my mother in 1995 and with my brother and my sister. We went to Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated, and it was the 50th anniversary of the liberation of that camp. While we were there, we went back to the town she was a child in, as well as Auschwitz, where she was before being transferred to Bergen-Belsen. This was our opportunity to revisit her life, and it gave her a real sense of completion, the closure of that horrible part of her life.

What was it like for you to visit the camps after hearing these stories for so long?
It felt good going back with her—regardless of how intolerably devastating visiting a concentration camp was. The fact that she survived, along with my grandmother, aunt and uncles—the fact that she was living evidence against the perpetrators of the Holocaust—was kind of uplifting. I know it might sound strange, but I remember she turned to me and said, ‘I wish my brothers and sisters had come along on this trip, because they would experience the feeling of having won the war.’

You’ve mentioned in the past that you consider yourself Jewish but not…

[Interrupts] I consider myself a Jew as a race, but not so much as a religion. I’m not down with religion at all. I’m a Jewish atheist, if that’s possible… I celebrate the holidays in the sense that my family gets together for the holidays and I like being a part of that. So I observe the ‘getting together’ aspect.

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Do you feel that being Jewish has impacted your music?
Oh, yeah. I grew up feeling the alienation that many kids feel growing up. I wasn’t a particularly social kid. That creates a feeling of being an outsider. I spent a lot of time living inside my own head, and our music is full of those kinds of stories. The comfort of knowing that you’re not the only one who experiences
alienation, and we have fans that have looked for comfort much in the same way that we’ve looked for comfort from our own music.

Do you ever stop and think: ‘Whoa, dude. I’m in Rush.’
I can’t look at Rush objectively. It amazes me that I’ve had so many fortunate things happen to me over the years. But I can’t view it as a ‘whoa’ thing. Don’t get me wrong—it’s awesome,
but you know? Back in the day, were there debauched times?

It’s my impression that you’re a pretty well-behaved band.
We’re nice boys. But I can’t vouch for us being well-behaved every night.


Are there any classic rock and roll stories you’d like to share?

They will stay with us to the grave.

Come on, none?
[Laughs] My mother could be reading.

Â

Heeb Web exclusive: Click here for the extended Geddy Lee interview

What do you think?

About The Author

Heeb

The international media conspiracy and/or the new Jew review. Take your pick.

40 Responses

  1. lobster

    Arye — As a lifelong fan of Rush, that was a fantastic interview, and very insightful how you managed to give it a slight edge of Heeb relevancy with the Jew-related questions.. Everyone my age (35) that I’ve met that is a fellow Rush fan seem to have one thing in common and that is that they had an older brother Rush fan who would introduce them and pass the torch :D

    You don’t see many Geddy interviews out there, so naturally you scored a huge one by bagging this one.. Good shit!

    Reply
  2. RabinnicalRock

    I certainly hope Ged stops with this Jewish athiest stuff. It is so uncool sounding. So dogmatic. Most people in the world believe in G-d. They don’t believe all this stuff just accidently showed up. Geddy believes it to. I guess to sing some of Neils lyrics he has to play the part of the… scientific cynic

    He himself admitted that he prays to G-d when he is in a tough tennis game.

    There are no athiests in a foxhole.

    Let’s hope Ged gets his hands on a few good jewish books and starts to appreciates the wonders of Torah.

    Reply
  3. dshepp806

    I say call it as you see it (or believe it). Geddy can believe whatever he wants, with no help from anyone, Rabbi’s included. Atheist or not, doesn’t matter…I think Snakes & Arrows put ALL in proper perspective,..all so true……I’m just so glad to hear Geddy “say it”!!!!!!!

    I would feel the same way, BTW. And it matters NOT whether you believe or not…Religion has poisened this world, if anything at all (all of ‘em)…

    Yes, there are Atheist in foxholes and everywhere else,..they just don’t have the balls to say what the facts are.

    Reply
  4. Arye_Dworken

    Thanks, Lobster. I appreciate the kind words. I just got back from seeing I Love You, Man. It’s worth seeing it for the Rush references alone.

    Reply
  5. belen

    Arye,

    I posted a comment to the extended interview page. I just had to hop over to this more visited page to announce my quest: to bring the Female Rush Fans–apparently called Geddycorns by the band as they consider us mythical and seldom seen–out of the peripheries of fandom and into the limelight, so to speak.

    A call to Geddycorns (or Neilcorns or Lexicorns) across the globe. Stand up and be counted!

    Here is a link to the Toronto Star blurb and the origins of the Geddycorn:
    http://www.thestar.com/Entertainment/article/601542

    And by the way, those Rush thongs and panties that have popped up at the concert kiosks are pretty effing condescending.

    Thank you for a terrific article, Arye. Next time you interview GL, be sure to tell him to give a good, hard look into the audience at the next gig.

    Kind regards,
    Belen the Geddycorn

    PS–How goes the wife’s conversion?

    Reply
  6. fortepromo

    I am a Jewish too and great Fan of Geddy Lee music , His music is really unique

    Reply
  7. jimb12345

    geddy Lee is such an awesome guitarist. I have been a rush fan all my life. This is a great article about him. keep the great articles coming.

    Reply
  8. DsDownloads

    I love Geddy Lee’s music and wished he was even mor epopular in Europe.

    Reply
  9. kaytee

    Very informative article! Keep ‘em coming. There are so many Geddy Lee fans out here. :-)

    Reply
  10. mpanza

    I Love this performance of freewill, it shows they are appreciated. I freakin love Geddy Lee. Freewill is so a brilliant song so brillant Peart is an amazing writer

    Reply
  11. TeethWhiteningProducts

    I love this band. they are one of the finest musicians we have around.

    Reply
  12. stacyfariot12

    Let’s hope Ged gets his hands on a few good jewish books and starts to appreciates the wonders of Torah.

    Reply
  13. TedYoung

    Geddy Lee music is awesome. His band is one of the best in the world.
    Ted

    Reply
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