Arts & Entertainment

How an iconic Canadian rock band lured angry teens to the dark arts of Ayn Rand.

By Johnny Diamond, LitHub

If there was one band that dominated the soundtrack of a 1980s childhood on the wrong side of outer-suburban Toronto, it was Rush. Particularly if you had older brothers who smoked a lot of pot. To be honest, though, we never really paid much attention to drummer Neil Peart’s occasionally ornate and often opaque lyrics (see pot, above), which seemed to land somewhere between Tolkien plot summary (“We are the priests of the temples of Syrinx / Our great computers fill the hollowed halls”) and inspirational guidance counselor poster (“For those who wish to see / Those who wish to be / Must put aside the alienation / Get on with the fascination”).

It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I learned that Peart had been heavily influenced by Ayn Rand, whose writing he’d discovered at exactly the wrong time, as an easily disillusioned teenager recently moved to early 1970s London to make it big as a musician.

Peart, who died in 2020, basically disavowed his early career fascination with Rand’s objectivist fantasies of self-reliance, calling himself a “bleeding heart libertarian” in this 2012 Rolling Stone interview. But that doesn’t mean his lyrics—which achieve their Randiest modalities on Rush’s 1976 mega-hit record, 2112—haven’t had a lasting effect on the brain’s of embittered, impressionable young men! To wit: in this recent post at the Objective Standard Institute, writer (and “TEDx speech coach”) Robert Begley describes his first encounter with the dark priestess of enlightened selfishness:

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