RUSH's Geddy Lee Names His All-Time Favorite Bass Songs
By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta
December 9, 2019
Although Lee is also the band's lead singer, Rush's compositional style generally demanded more from its front man's fingers than his throat. And as Rush grew into one of the biggest live concert draws in the world over four decades, Lee never outsourced his instrumental duties to focus on singing.
Lee identifies most comfortably as a bassist, and as such, his biggest musical influences are fellow bassmen.
Celebrating a year since the release of his Big Beautiful Book of Bass, Lee recently provided Rolling Stone with a list of five of his favorite songs for bass. The list is in no particular order, but there's no surprise that the first song named was one featuring Lee's biggest bass hero, The Who's John Entwistle, to whom he devoted an entire section in the BBBoB.
And to Lee's point, you don't have to look far into The Who's catalog to find a track where Entwistle shines. (The bassist's uncompromising sound was kind of Pete Townshend's problem with him.) The band's first (and biggest) hit, "My Generation," was a three-minute pop hit which also features a bass solo around just the one-minute mark. Lee credits The Ox, with "daring to take the role and sound of the bass guitar and push it out of the murky depths while strutting those amazing chops with his own kind of 'Twang!'"
Lee compliments BBBoB contributor and Led Zeppelin bassist/arranger John Paul Jones for his "profound but understated playing" on one of his favorite Zep tunes, "What Is And What Should Never Be." The tune errs on the folkier side of the Zeppelin spectrum with Jones adding "heavy bottom" and melody the whole way through.
The first time Lee performed since Rush's final R40 concert was to play "Roundabout" at Yes's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Yes bassist and co-founder Chris Squire was a behemoth among bassists, songwriters and the general population. Both a fellow devotee of Entwistle's and a massive influence on Lee himself, Squire's playing on "Roundabout" is a perfect example of how a bassist can transform a song with rhythm, melody and raw volume.
Lee closes with a tribute to late-bass icon Jaco Pastorius, who is perhaps the most universally appreciated player in the bass guitar realm. Pastorius' compositional genius is appreciated by musicians of all stripes and Weather Report's "Teen Town" is no exception with, as Lee describes, its "profound complexity, incredible melodic structure, and terrific groove." Lee adds that seeing Pastorius live was one of the most inspiring concerts of his career.
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