Update: Rush was inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, class of 2013.
I was not familiar with the band Rush until I went to a leadership conference in Wisconsin and a fellow participant insisted that I listen to “Tom Sawyer,” what he considered to be a masterpiece song. I listened to it, and liked the song, and since then have discovered that while I have no strong feelings of adoration or hatred for Rush (I think them a competent and skilled band with clever and catchy songs), there is a real divide in how people view Rush and their ethical blend of hard and progressive rock. The enthusiastic fan base that Rush possesses was on full display in the bromance “I Love You, Man,” which also showed off Rush’s musical chops. That divide, and the general hostility of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for progressive rock, along with Rush’s notable insistence on independence and a low-key way of going about their business, is why Rush is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame–and that is the hall’s loss and not theirs.
Rush’s contribution to Rock & Roll is both in terms of its approach to music and its willingness to experiment and blend elements together in well-crafted tunes as its influence on other bands. Let us first examine its own music and its enduring popularity and recognition of skill. Rush is in third place behind The Beatles and Kiss (another Rock & Roll Hall of fame snub) on a list of all-time consecutive gold or platinum (or multi-platinum) releases. That shows enduring long-term popularity as a band, extending for over three decades. Rush has 78 singles, including one top ten on the Hot 100 (Freewill) and several #1 hits on the Mainstream Rock charts (New World Men, Dreamline, Stick It Out, Test For Echo). As a whole, they have a long and proud history and are still producing popular and relevant new music after a career of 24 gold albums, 14 platinum albums, and 3 multi-platinum albums so far –not bad for a Canadian “cult” prog rock band.
The influence of Rush on others springs from a variety of factors. The low-key approach the band took to marketing mirrors that of Dire Straits, another band denied its just desserts in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The three-piece two-guitars and a drummer approach of Rush has been followed by awesome bands like Semisonic and Train (for its most recent studio album). The band has been cited as an influence by bands like Metallica, Primus, Smashing Pumpkins, Dream Theater, and Symphony X , showing their enduring relevance on both sides of the hard rock/progressive rock divide.
Why Rush Is A No-Brainer For Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inclusion
Rush is part of a sizable group of Canadian rock & roll acts (Bryan Adams is another) whose massive influence and popularity has not translated into respect from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The blend of progressive rock elements (synth, speculative fiction themes) and hard rock musicianship and riffs remains influential and distinctive. Rush remains a viable creative force, both as a live and as a studio act, and even within popular culture in documentaries and mainstream films. In addition to their own merits, their inclusion would help right the wrongs of their nation and their genre of rock music being underrepresented in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and help Cleveland gain some credibility for recognizing talent and not merely pursuing a private agenda.
Why Rush Isn’t In The Hall of Fame?
They’re a progressive rock band without an over-the-top approach. They emphasize solid musicianship and craft, and they have remained independent of the machine of rock & roll promotion. They come from Canada and they have a rabidly supportive fanbase that openly compares itself to the Trekkie/Trekker phenomenon. Let’s face it, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t think Rush is cool enough to belong there, because they’re snobs. When you have subjective standards, you lose respect and credibility, and Rush is a clear sign of the subjective standards of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (though far from the only one).
Update: Guess Rush is cool enough after all. Rush was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, class of 2013.