Writer(s): Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson, Pye Dubois (see lyrics here)
Released: February 28, 1981
First Charted: March 21, 1981
Peak: 44 US, 47 CB, 57 HR, 1 CL, 8 AR, 25 UK, 24 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 59.4 video, 199.22 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Rush established themselves as one of the most significant acts of the 1970s with album-rock staples like “Fly by Night,” “Closer to the Heart,” and “The Trees” and a run of six studio albums which went gold or platinum. However, their highest peak on the album chart was #33. That changed in 1980 with Permanent Waves, a #4 album supported by “The Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill.” 1981’s Moving Pictures did even better, going to #3 and becoming the best-selling album of Rush’s career with sales of more than four million in the United States.
The album was fueled by some of its most popular songs, including “Limelight,” “Red Barchetta,” and “Tom Sawyer.” Rush’s Geddy Lee called the latter song “the quintessential Rush song” and “the one song that we have to play for the rest of our lives.” SF Indeed, it has become a staple of classic rock radio and the band’s live shows, played on every concert tour since its release. WK
Drummer Neil Peart wrote the lyrics with Pye Dubois of the band Max Webster based on a poem by Dubois called “Louis the Lawyer.” Peart explained that the original lyrics were “a portrait of a modern day rebel, a free-spirited individualist striding through the world wide-eyed and purposeful.” WK Peart loosely tied it to Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer SF and added the dimension of “reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be.” WK
The music was crafted by Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. The song’s “sci-fi mein is established through keen synthesizer dabbling as well as some mild background effects, while the heavy rock sound is garnered by Alex Lifeson’s guitar work and Neil Peart’s explosive drum rolls.” AMG The band’s “progressive roots may be showing to a slight degree, but these elements are cubed, maintained, then added to an amiable three-minute formula.” AMG Note: the song actually runs four and a half minutes.
First posted 2/5/2021; last updated 7/28/2022.