Rush is best known as an experimental band that used plenty of science fiction and philosophical tropes in their music while creating complex musical compositions. They found their greatest level of success in the 70s and 80s, but they’re still one of the most popular classic rock bands out there today.
In this article, we’ll be going over the 15 best Rush songs of all time.
1. Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer is widely considered Rush’s best song, their signature track, and an all-time classic in the rock genre. Coming from the Moving Pictures album in 1981, it served as the second single released from what has perhaps become their best album. While Neil Peart wrote almost all of the band’s song lyrics alone, this was one of the few times they had a co-writer, namely Pye Dubois.
The track itself became one of their best-charting songs, reaching number 44 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helping propel the Moving Pictures album up to number three on the charts, their highest-charting album at the time.
The song 2112 is an absolute masterpiece from Rush, coming in a 20-minute package of instrumentals and storytelling that was a landmark for progressive rock as a whole. The title track of their album, it’s split into seven movements that are reminiscent of classical music compositions, making it easy to play parts of it in concert without going through the whole thing.
A big leap into the sci-fi side of the band, it remains an absolute fan favorite and consistently ranks in reader polls for the best Rush songs and best progressive rock songs.
3. Fly By Night
It’s hard to talk about this band without discussing Fly By Night since it’s the song that helped the band establish itself in mainstream markets. Serving as the title track for their second album, it was Peart’s first appearance with the group and is just quintessentially Rush.
In 1976, the song was re-released as a single as part of their live album All The World’s A Stage. That version became the first time they broke into the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 88 on that chart.
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4. The Spirit of Radio
The beginning of the 80s was marred by major shifts in the music industry and numerous artists releasing tracks that lamented the state of affairs in the rock genre. Rush was another one of the groups to jump onto the trend, denouncing the state of the radio instead of music as a whole, essentially saying that there was no integrity in the business and prizes were all that mattered.
The funny part about the song denouncing modern radio—modern at the time—was that radio stations ate up the track and played it all the time, turning it into a big hit for them. Also ironic was the fact that it uses pop hooks more than other Rush songs, so while others decried pop music, they kind of used it to denounce other aspects of the music business.
There’s a contingent of Rush fans that think the best song from the band’s 2112 album isn’t the title track but is actually Limelight, and they have a solid argument. A massive highlight of the Moving Pictures album, it takes on their newfound fame and Peart’s disdain for having a spotlight shone onto him and the group as a whole.
A showcase of introvertedness ended up bringing more eyes onto them and became one of their biggest hits, propelling them towards the very thing the song isn’t a fan of.
6. Red Barchetta
Rush is known for being a bit “out there,” with their sci-fi themes and philosophical musing on the future of the world. Maybe in Red Barchetta more than anywhere else is that on display.
Diving into issues like cars being banned by law and detailing a thrilling chase scene after being caught going for a drive, the song has always been a fan favorite for Rush lovers. It wasn’t ever released as a single, but you can find it on their Moving Pictures album from 1981.
Xanadu was based on the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It discusses an explorer that eventually gains immortality after finding and traveling to the mythical city of Xanadu but realizes that being alive forever kind of sucks.
The song itself marked some big shifts for Rush, being the first major use of synthesizers for the band and one of their first attempts at program music. The track starts with a five-minute instrumental before jumping into the story and runs for a total of 11 minutes.
8. Closer to the Heart
Closer To The Heart was the first time Rush featured a songwriter that wasn’t a member of the band, Peter Talbot. One of the many times they were likened to Led Zeppelin, the track ended up being their first hit in the UK, reaching number 36 on their singles chart and peaking at number 76 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It’s one of their most popular songs, being performed at nearly all of their concerts.
Interestingly enough, the track itself has been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, an honor it received in 2010.
9. The Trees
If being featured on compilation albums and live performances say anything about how important a song is to a band, The Trees has to qualify as one of Rush’s greatest tracks. Originally released in 1978 on the Hemispheres album, later interviews with Peart revealed there wasn’t an incredibly deep message to the story in the song. That story describes disputes between oak and maple trees, wanting equality but finding they are kept equal by being cut down by the same ax.
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Where The Spirit Of Radio leaned into pop aesthetics, Freewill brought Rush back to its signature style while maintaining a radio-friendly vibe. The members have called it one of their most ambitious pieces of music, and it features a fantastic and frenetically difficult guitar solo. It’s one of their most technically-proficient songs and one that has to be included on any top-ten list for the band.
11. Time Stand Still
Rush might have had their biggest successes in the early 80s, but they were still producing great music at the end of that decade and on into the 90s. As they grew, they became more experimental and ventured out from their original sound, with Time Stand Still serving as one of the best examples of this.
Diving into pop rock and the synth wave trends, the song made it to number three on the US Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 1987 and even broke the top 50 on the UK Singles chart.
12. La Villa Strangiato
La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise In Self-Indulgence)—that’s a mouthful—was the end of Rush’s progressive-rock entries and rounded out their Hemispheres album. Incredibly complex, the members have joked for years they had trouble learning and playing it live.
The 12-part song is all instrumentals but lacks none of their signature storytelling. In fact, it’s one of the few times that Peart receives credit for writing some of the music for the track, though he is normally credited for writing lyrics.
Rush has been great forever, but the early 80s were when they released the most hit songs. Subdivisions is a great example of this, serving as the second single to come from their 1982 Signals album and charting up to number five on both the Bubbling Under Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts.
Using the neighborhood subdivision as an analogy for societal expectations, they composed a song that became a staple hit for them that’s still played on classic rock radio today.
If you’re unaware, YYZ is the identification code for the Toronto Pearson International Airport, one that all of the members frequently had to fly through. It earned a song from the band because according to them it was always a happy day when their baggage had YYZ tags on it, assumedly because they were getting to go home.
YYZ is one of their most-performed tracks in concert and a great piece of instrumental rock music.
15. Working Man
A fan favorite with a guitar solo for the ages, Working Man was one of the songs that helped Rush succeed in the US. Originally, it was played on air by a DJ in Cleveland. Listeners in the mainly working-class city seemed to love the track, provoking a major response there in trying to find out who they were and resulting in a record deal for them in the US. It also came during a big time of transition for them, with the first recordings coming months before Peart replaced John Rutsey as the drummer for the band.
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