Rush played their final show in 2015 as part of a 40th anniversary for the lineup of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, but they might not have made it to that day as a band if not for an intervention from Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant.
Speaking with Classic Rock magazine, singer-bassist Geddy Lee reveals the role the Led Zeppelin legend played in their eventual 21st century return to the stage after the death of Neil Peart's daughter and wife put the band's future in doubt.
As many fans know, Rush took an extended hiatus after support of 1996's Test for Echo album with Peart mourning the death of his daughter Selena in a 1997 car crash. Peart's wife then died from cancer a year later. Needing time for reflection, the musician traveled over 55,000 miles on his motorcycle and chronicled the journey in his Ghost Rider book. But while that experience helped Peart return to the band, his bandmates weren't exactly in the best mindset either and that's where Plant comes in.
Lee stated that the group was at their lowest point and unsure if they'd reunite, but a 1998 Robert Plant phone call helped put things into perspective.
“Page & Plant were touring Walking Into Clarksdale and they came to Toronto,” recalls Lee. “Someone kept calling our office saying they were Robert Plant and they needed to speak to me. No one believed it, but turns out it was him.”
“We were on hiatus after Selena had passed away and we were not in a good place. I called Robert back, and he wanted us to come to the show, and I was pretty down in the dumps at that point. And he said, ‘No, come to the show, we’ll talk.’ He understood what was going on with the band. I remember him saying: ‘You’ve got to re-join life, and sooner is better than later. So get your ass down here.’ So I called Alex up and said we’re going to see Page & Plant.”
Plant had obviously been through his own experiences with the death of John Bonham that led to Led Zeppelin's eventual split. While he pushed forward as a solo artist, there have been recorded collaborations with Jimmy Page and even the rare public performances reuniting him as part of the three living members of Led Zeppelin. But this show featuring Plant and Page back together offered some hope for Rush's future to Lee.
“They were totally awesome. They were so nice. There’s nothing better than meeting someone you admire for so many years and so many reasons and finding out they’re true gents,” said Lee of Plant and Page.
Elsewhere in the chat, Lee shares the impact Led Zeppelin had on them as young musicians, calling them as "huge influence" on Rush and adding, "We wanted to be them instantly."
Rush would eventually reunite in 2001 with the Vapor Trails album arriving in May of 2002. It would kick off the band's 21st Century output, with the albums Snakes & Arrows and Clockwork Angels following before they decided to wrap their years as touring musicians.
The retirement of Peart after that 2015 final show followed by his 2020 death closed the book on Rush as most fans know it, though Alex Lifeson expressed earlier this year a desire to make more music with Lee.
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