Background and Commentary

“Freewill” returns to the theme of “Something for Nothing” by urging us to use the freewill inherent in us to act. “Rush’s fear of over-insistence on the collective to the detriment of the individual gradually metamorphosed in the band’s music towards a diagnosis of the late twentieth-century individual. The first responsibility is to act and to be aware of the situation in which one acts, not unlike the existentialist responsibility identified by Jean-paul Satre and Simone de Beauvoir as the route to authentic existence.”—Paul Hegarty and Martin Halliwell, Beyond and Before

“In about five minutes of propulsive beats, melodic guitar figures, and utterly inimitable vocalizing, Rush perceptively observe the tendency to blame someone else for our faults, deny that fate is controlled by outside forces, and embrace self-determination.”—Neil Florek, Rush and Philosophy

“‘Freewill’ continues the bright approach of ‘The Spirit of Radio’ on Permanent Waves with a crisp and clean sound as Geddy sings Neil’s words about choices we must all make, even if we deny that choices exist.”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

Among other things, Rush uses the piece to “scoff at superstitious people who pay heed to celestial voices to make their difficult decisions for them instead of thinking for themselves.”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

“‘Kill them with kindness’ is the play on words behind ‘kindness that can kill.’ Lotus eaters in Homer’s The Odyssey became lazy when they ate them. An ancient symbol, the lotus can also stand for all forms of evolution.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“Lotus land as it appears in ‘Free Will’ is simply a metaphor for an idealized background, a land of milk and honey. It is sometimes also used as a pejorative name for Los Angeles, though that was not in my mind when I wrote it. . . . [Musically], the song is a new thing for us in terms of time signatures. [The piece is mostly in 13/4.] We experiment a lot with time signatures. We work in nearly every one of them that I know of that’s legitimate: all of the 5s, 7s, 9s, 11s, 13s, and combinations thereof. I don’t think you have to play in 4/4 to feel comfortable.” (Modern Drummer)—Neil in Merely Players

Neil comments in his book Roadshow that listeners have told him they credit this and other Rush songs with widening their views about the world. “One young man told me about being raised a strict Catholic, sure that his faith and received doctrine were the only truth, then he started to listen to some of our songs, like ‘Freewill,’ and began to consider that it was possible to believe differently.

“Not long ago [this was around 2007], a former Mormon wrote to me recounting a similar experience, of being brought up and simply accepting what he was told, until his independence of thought was kindled by our music.”

Neil mentions these episodes while talking about religious extremism. “Even if the voice of reason is increasingly drowned out by the evangelical crowd, that is all the more reason to speak up.”

Geddy has said that the end of the song is at the highest part of his vocal range. “The end part is about as high as I can possibly sing,” Geddy told “For some reason, that part is not very difficult for me.”

Five “Freewill” tributes.


There are those who think that life has nothing left to chance
A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance

A planet of play things
We dance on the strings
Of powers we cannot perceive
The stars aren’t aligned
Or the gods are malign
Blame is better to give than receive

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose freewill

There are those who think
That they were dealt a losing hand
The cards were stacked against them
They weren’t born in Lotus land

All preordained
A prisoner in chains
A victim of venomous fate
Kicked in the face
You can’t pray for a place
In heaven’s unearthly estate


Each of us
A cell of awareness
Imperfect and incomplete
Genetic blends
With uncertain ends
On a fortune hunt that’s far too fleet


Excerpted from Fretplay.


riff A

riff B

riff C


You can choose…..

If you choose…

You can choose …

I will choose a path….. v– first time only.

For complete tab, go to Fretplay.


“Freewill” guitar cover

“Freewill” bass cover

“Freewill” drum cover

Back to Rush Vault

~ by rvkeeper on February 5, 2011.

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