New Book: Rush: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Excellence
From Amazon . . .
Great book, read slowly to fully enjoy it
“A very in depth conversation from Rush’s start to the present. It is not a lot read. You probably won’t rifle through this in a single sitting, and the author will likely challenge a lot of your interpretations of many of the songs. But more than worth considering the impact on Rush lyrics far beyond Rand and Aristotle. Pick it up.”—Alan L. Emery
I had a great time over the last four years writing Rush: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Excellence, my book about Rush from Algora Publishing in New York City. Thanks to the work of lots of other people, including Chris McDonald and Durrell Bowman, whose books and Ph.D. dissertations paved the way for many of us who spend a lot of time thinking about the band’s music, I found lots of great work to draw on. The one thing that was missing, in my view, was an overarching narrative that put everything the band has done under a single, unifying theme. It was my intention to do that in my book by showing how all of the band’s music can be understood as an expression of classical liberalism rooted in Aristotelian individualism. Thanks to Ed Stenger of RushIsABand for writing the foreword and to John Patuto of Cygnus X-I for letting me use some of his great photographs. I also want to thank Eric Hansen at Power Windows for taking an early look at the book.
The book is my effort to show that Rush’s music is unique in just how consistent it holds to a few philosophical moral principles. Starting with the band’s bold statements in “Anthem” and “Something for Nothing” and ending with the 12 chapters of Clockwork Angels, the band over its 40 years has built virtually every piece it’s written on a bedrock of Aristotelian virtue ethics. This idea isn’t unique to me. Several of the contributors to Rush and Philosophy, which came out in 2011, talk about the Aristotelian connection in the band’s music. But I’ve tried to take this further by showing how pretty much everything the band has done falls under this framework. When you add the band’s humanism into the mix, you have a very stable philosophical view, one that provides an antidote to the existential despair that people are prone to fall into if they don’t have religion or some other organizing principle to give them solace.
One of the genuinely unique contributions I tried to make among all that’s been written is to show how music from the late 1980s and the 1990s ties in with early works that seem so libertarian. Songs like “The Big Money,” “Open Secrets,” “Hand Over Fist,” and others from that era seem to have little to do with the individualism of the band’s early pieces. The point I make is that individualism comes with two sides: taking responsibility for yourself and respecting others as sovereigns who are entitled to being treated in good faith. Virtually all of Rush’s songs reflect one or the other side of this moral equation.
I also try to show that the band’s late-career popularity is consistent with the rise of the post-boomer generations, the leading edge of which is now taking leadership positions in politics, academia, science, business, and entertainment. Even though Alex, Geddy, and Neil are baby boomers, you can make the case that their music has always resonated more with Gen Xers, who start with a more entrepreneurial and individualist mindset than the boomers ever had. At least when they were young, boomers had aspirations that were far more in tune with the collectivism of Plato than the individualism of Aristotle.
I know many fans of the band would rather people didn’t over-analyze the music; it’s there to be enjoyed and not pored over with a fine-toothed comb. I’ve shared that view for a long time, but I’m a communicator by profession, so I felt compelled to do some communicating on the band. If the book does nothing except get people talking about why the music’s so interesting to listen to, even if they think I’m barking up the wrong maple tree, I would consider that a success.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault
I’ll have more to say about the book shortly, but for now, here’s an excerpt from Ed Stenger’s foreword and a short review from Chris McDonald.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault
Rush: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Excellence
Algora Publishing, 2014
$17.96 (paperback, on Amazon).
Early comments on the new book by the publisher of Rush Vault:
“Robert Freedman’s book, Rush: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Excellence, brings together all the different treatments of Rush’s music into one grand, unifying theme, Aristotelian individualism, and shows the historical context into which the band falls. Whether he’s looking at Aristotle, Ayn Rand, humanism, or critics’ responses to Rush over the years, Freedman brings it all together in a comprehensive history of Rush’s lyrical philosophy and does so in an accessible, down-to-earth manner that I think any Rush fan will enjoy.”—Ed Stenger, RushIsABand (from the foreword to Rush: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Excellence
“Rush: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Excellence presents the band’s body of work as an exemplar of Aristotelian and libertarian individualism. With an engaging writing style, Robert Freedman takes stock of all of Rush’s albums and considers how they reflect a unified approach to the challenges, possibilities, and problems of life during the late 20th century and the early 21st. The book builds on previous analyses of Rush by Price, Lombardo, Berti and Bowman, taking Rush seriously as pop culture philosophers, and brings further depth to the argument that Rush’s music presents a
secular, humanistic, and individualistic outlook that is rare in rock music. Rush fans who actively reflect on the group’s lyrical messages will enjoy this opportunity to broaden their understanding of Rush against a particular philosophical background. There is an exciting analysis of Rush’s recent Clockwork Angels album, making the book not only up-to-date, but providing a clear sense of how Rush’s broader philosophy extends into its newest material. Freedman gives a balanced account of the impact of Aristotelian and Randian individualism on Rush, and by extension, the generation to whom Rush spoke.”—Chris McDonald, author of Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class (2009: Indiana University Press)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The ABCs of the Peart effect
What it’s all about: personal stewardship
And the World is Set in Motion
No excuse to get wild
Making sense of existential absurdity
From Aristotle to Locke to Rand to Rush
Pardon my reaction
Individualism: Some Geddit, Some Don’t
With friends like these . . .
Not only are they right wing, but they’re fascist
Left as much as right
Peart’s chance at rebuttal
The Randian thing: guilty as charged
Rush has girls on its mind, too
Just awesome rock to me, dude
A model of moral coherency
‘What you do is your own glory’
Armed with Sense and Liberty
Now that we have your attention . . .
‘Tom Sawyer’ as Libertarian anthem
No end to the thread
Individualism: It’s Not Just About You, You Know
Respecting the sovereignty of others
From standing alone to walking together
Allegories of cooperation
Playing what we’re dealt
Close, but not succumbing, to despair
The Voice of Gawd
Rush is on the job
‘Faith is a higher faculty than reason’
Parable over commentary
Reason and faith must be reconciled
The Cask of ‘43
Mythmakers of a generation
Not yet ready to exit the lighted stage
A band’s evolutionary arc
The Cask of ‘43
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rush as Religion, Metaphysics, Ethics, Physicalism, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, Political Commentary—and Music
Meaning of Rush’s Clockwork Angels Runes