Wednesday, the 29th of July, was Geddy Lee's birthday. If you're not a fan of the rock band Rush, you may not know who Geddy Lee is (he is Rush's lead singer, and an excellent bass player too), and you may wonder why I'm devoting a blog post to him. Suffice it to say he means a lot to me (I've known him for more than four decades, and consider him a friend). He also means a lot to the band's world-wide community of fans, large numbers of whom have admired his work for as many years as I have. Rush are no longer performing-- they announced their retirement in 2015, and in early 2020, the band's drummer, Neil Peart, lost his battle with cancer. But for the fans, Rush's music lives on; and all of us celebrate their birthdays, as well as remembering the concerts we attended over the years.
So, when Geddy had his birthday, I posted several photos on social media-- including this photo, which was taken on a Thursday night, 18 July 2019, at the Brookline (MA) Booksmith, where Geddy was signing copies of his new book, "Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass." (For those who haven't seen photos in my blog posts before, Blogger, which publishes my blog, now makes inserting photographs much easier, allowing me to add them into my posts. Given how knowing Rush changed my life, it seems fitting that my first attempt to publish a photo is one with a member of the band.)
More than 1500 fans commented on my post, wishing Geddy a happy birthday (I passed along those wishes through his sister, with whom I've become friendly...another benefit of knowing Geddy), and offering their recollections of times they met him or times they saw him perform. A common thread, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, was what a kind and humble person he is. Rock stars are often stereotyped as arrogant, egocentric, or vain, but Geddy is none of these. He is as down-to-earth now as he was when his career was just beginning.
Geddy is also a philanthropist, and he's a devoted family man. And yes, he's also good to his mother! He loves music, but he also loves baseball, especially the Toronto Blue Jays; and he is a collector of memorabilia related to the game. (Combining his love for philanthropy with his love for baseball, in 2008, he donated over 200 autographed baseballs, signed by Negro Leagues players, to Kansas City's Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.)
But about the photo-- the book-signing event got off to a late start because Geddy's plane was delayed. Fans patiently stood in long lines to see him, even briefly. I didn't want to bother him, given all the people eagerly wanting to say hi and get an autographed copy of his book; but when he saw me standing off to one side, he stopped what he was doing and asked everyone to wait. We hugged (this was last year, pre-pandemic), chatted very briefly, and then I asked if we could get a picture, since we hadn't seen each other in a while. Someone from the Booksmith staff kindly took the photo, and I am grateful that I could add it to my collection.
For those who don't know much about Geddy, what I find unique about him (and his band-mates) is how appreciative they have always been for what I did for them. I am known for launching their career in the US, and I always stood up for them when media critics were scornful towards them; I advocated for their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and I was there to give a speech in June 2010 when they received it. And they never forgot it. And they always showed their gratitude, even years later.
My point is not that I'm such a wonderful person-- my point is that as a music director and a deejay, I helped many rock stars during my years in radio, and seldom got so much as a thank-you; in fact, I seldom heard back from any of them. But Rush always kept in touch. If they could mention me during an interview, they always did. They didn't have to. Yet they still did it. And my experience is not unique: many fans have stories of how courteous and thoughtful these guys always were. Many fans have positive recollections of meeting them, even for a brief moment at a "meet-and-greet" event.
I hope Geddy's birthday was a happy one (he spent it with his family, I am told). And I'm glad my post brought back some positive memories for the fans. In this crazy world, with a pandemic, political divisions, economic problems, and general insecurity, it's comforting to share some good music, and to keep in mind that there are still people out there who haven't changed-- they are still the same good people they always were. I don't know about you, but I find that both refreshing and encouraging.