Rush yesterday received their doctorates from Canada's Nipissing University – although none of the band were able to attend in person due to bad weather.
Last week vice chancellor Mike DeGagne said the band had been among those to be granted the establishment’s first-ever honourary awards as “remarkable Canadians who have helped make our world better.”
Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson had planned to be there, but their flight to Ontario was refused permission to land because of fog at the airport. They had to record video speeches instead.
Lee told the university: “This is a situation I never thought I would be in. Imagine: a high school drop-out, and a rock musician no less, receiving such an honour. Finally my mother’s dream comes true – she has a doctor for a son. Oy vey!
“This recognition of a life spent making music is an immense honour. And although it’s been a fascinating ride, it has been a journey of perseverance as well.”
The frontman hailed the “courage and incredible desire to succeed” of his Holocaust survivor mother, saying if it wasn’t for her he wouldn’t have made his own journey towards success. “She understands the true meaning of perseverance – coming to a new country with literally ten dollars in their pocket, learning a new language in a culture very foreign to their own.”
Lifeson joked: “My intended first act as a doctor was to write scrips for everyone – but apparently I’m not that kind of doctor.”
He continued: “There’s no prescription for success, but hard work comes pretty close. Everything we learn can be applied towards achieving a higher standard in all we do.”
Recalling Rush’s early years of “spending happy hours dreaming of fantasy gigs where we’d be paid tens of dollars and get most of the chicken wings we could eat,” he went on: “Hard work paid off. We went on to make hundreds of dollars, ate all the wings and split the fries. Success tastes, well, kind of greasy, but really good.”
The guitarist told how their third album, 1975’s Caress Of Steel, was regarded as a flop – but the negativity inspired the band to come back with 2112 the following year. “We responded with a protest album and an attitude of fierce defiance,” he said. “That album went on to become one of our most popular. We grew with a confidence and self-belief that exists to this day.
“You don’t always win when you try, but you always fail when you don’t.”