Geddy Lee’s Confession About Rush’s ‘Tom Sawyer’


The 70s and 80s were the progressive rock band Rush’s golden times in which they reached millions of people with their best-selling albums such as ‘A Farewell to Kings,’ ‘Hemispheres,’ with many more. In time, Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart became milestone figures for progressive rock’s rising popularity and the whole rock music genre. Shortly after, the musicians decided to make a few changes in their musical style.

Therefore, while working on ‘Permanent Waves,’ they began using reggae and new wave elements alongside more synthesizers, splitting the fans in two. Some thought they shouldn’t have experimented with new things, while others found it essential for their progress. Lifeson, Lee, and Peart probably agreed with the second group since their follow-up record, ‘Moving Pictures,’ carried the same traces. However, the singer Geddy Lee had doubts about a song from it.

Geddy Lee’s First Reaction To ‘Tom Sawyer’


In their eighth studio album ‘Moving Pictures,’ Rush members continued to embrace their reggae-influenced style and create progressive rock works that could quickly gain popularity and commercial success. Thus, the record’s reaching the top 10 on various charts all around the world and selling millions of copies didn’t surprise the band and music journalists.

Its singles, ‘Limelight,’ ‘Tom Sawyer,’ and ‘Vital Signs’ became some of the most popular Rush songs. Especially ‘Tom Sawyer,’ which Geddy Lee co-wrote with Canadian lyricist and poet Pye Dubois and the other two band members, was considered a genre-definer and their magnum opus for some followers and critics. However, Lee disagreed with them at the beginning of its creation process because none of the band members saw its true potential.

The others would discover it’s a well-crafted work shortly after its release. During one of his previous conversations, Geddy Lee recalled the studio sessions for the album, saying that he didn’t have good feelings about ‘Tom Sawyer’ in the beginning. The vocalist said he was disappointed by the track because he thought he couldn’t catch its spirit. According to Lee and his bandmates, it was the worst song they had created and recorded until that time.

However, the Rush icon realized that he was wrong about that prediction. Then, the Rush singer spoke to The Plain Dealer and stated ‘Tom Sawyer’ became so influential for their fans that they had to play it until the band’s last concert. Lee highlighted that none of them could guess that ‘Tom Sawyer’ would touch so many people’s hearts and souls. Thus, despite Lee’s first negative reviews about it, the track became a part of their legacy.

In Lee’s words, he said:

“I remember being disappointed in the studio, thinking we didn’t capture the spirit of the song. We thought it was the worst song on the record at the time – but it all came together in the mix. Sometimes you don’t have the objectivity to know when you’re doing your best work.”

In another interview, Lee explained:

“The one song that we have to play for the rest of our lives. When we wrote it, we had no idea that it would touch such a nerve with people. In many ways, it’s the quintessential Rush song.”

You can listen to the song below.