Rush’s talent was well acclaimed throughout the 70s and 80s. Their vocals were well known for Led-Zeppalin style shrill and extremely high notes. They influenced countless bands, won countless awards, sold out thousands of stadiums, and made over 20 records over its 41-year career. This band was called Rush.
The group dominated many radio stations during the 80s with hits such as Tom Sawyer, the Spirit of Radio, Freewill, Limelight, and so forth. But the masses of people familiar with the band are unaware that they made music all the way up until 2015. In fact, in the last two decades, they would tour every ~3 years or so, and released a live album every tour. Much of their content spanned their entire 41 year career during their final tours, leading Geddy Lee to have to sing extremely high notes even into his 60s.
Most Male singers begin seeing a decline in their vocal range around the age of 50. It’s physiological, to some extent. Although good training, technique, and practice can make a difference, the vocal range can only extend so high in later years. Particularly for rock singers, whose styles generally depend on shrill, high notes, and strain. Geddy Lee in particular, who was particularly well acclaimed for this style.
Most who critisize his voice today are critisizing his post Snakes-and-Arrows vocal performances. However, from the late 90s up until 2008’s Snakes and Arrows Live Tour, his voice aged remarkably well. His range was phenomenal, and he was on target with almost every note. Rarely was auto-tune and pitch correction required in the studio after recording live albums. His tone was unmatched from any other point in his career. Comparing Rush to many other live bands in the era, Geddy did a phenomenal job, even without considering his age.
Even with the frequent youtube concerts that are posted of Rush and of other bands, Geddy nailed his material. It is rare to find a singer who can do it better.
The critisism of his voice began to take hold around 2010. The Time Machine Tour took a major toll on his voice. He found himself struggling to hit notes he had previously sung comfortably. The set list was never re-arranged to accomodate his changing voice, and throughout the tour his voice declined. Even worse, the original concert recorded on April 15th in Cleveland was plagued with vocal issues as a result of him being sick on the night of the show. Much of the vocals were pulled from alternative shows or corrected in the studio afterwards. It’s well-done and listenable on the live album, but it’s very different from the vocals on the actual night of the show.
As such, the Time Machine Tour is often considered to be much of the cause for the critisism of his voice. Many are blissfully unaware of the subsequent tours that would follow, as his voice would recover remarkably well during the Clockwork Angels tour. Even at the age of 59, he maintained his full tenor range (a feat that is rarely possible as singers age), and continued to confidently sing old material. The Clockwork Angels DVD that would result was mostly unmodified from the original in terms of his vocal performance. Even without fixes in the studio, his vocal performances were generally on-point and well done.
His voice aged and his timber changed, but he continued to sing bravely during Rush’s signature 3-hour shows. During the R40 tour (and at the age of 62), Geddy found himself hitting notes and singing songs that had not been sung for decades. Even in his 60s, he was hitting the D5 repeatedly throughout his performance. This note is incredibly hard for young singers to hit! Geddy did this in his 60s!
All things considered, he never truly got the credit he deserved. Perhaps his extraordinary skill on the bass overshadowed it, or perhaps his style was never mainstream enough to gather the masses. But truthfully, he was a phenomenal singer, and there are very few bands and singers that could have ever done a better job.
Well done Rush. You’ve left a legacy.