Book Review: ‘Rush: Pursuit of Excellence’ Brings It All Together
Review by Chris McDonald
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.
The one thing that left me wanting more was the sense of Aristotelian thought as a tradition. In the book’s account, it seems to go mainly from Aristotle to Rand (which I think Rand herself believed), but thinkers like Maimonides and St. Thomas Aquinas applied Aristotelian thought to religion, and during the Enlightenment, Wolff, Hegel and Marx all pulled on Aristotelian ideas, at least in their understanding of teleology and history. I know she looms large in Rush’s story, but I wondered, personally, if Rand got too much credit for extending Aristotelian and individualist thought, since these ideas actually have a more broad history into which Rush could fit. However, I was glad to see Adam Smith and Voltaire (vs. Leibnitz) making appearances, in this regard.—Chris McDonald, author of Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class (2009: Indiana University Press).
Rush: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Excellence
Algora Publishing, 2014
$17.96 (paperback, on Amazon)
And 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