Geddy Lee’s Ultimate Regret About Jimi Hendrix

Geddy Lee’s Ultimate Regret About Jimi Hendrix | I Love Classic Rock Videos

via Jeff Lee / YouTube

Rush frontman Geddy Lee is a rock legend. Not only does he hold a mic with undeniable charisma, but his bass skills are revered by musicians worldwide. But even icons have moments of regret.

Early in his career, with dreams of rock stardom shimmering just out of reach, Lee found himself heartbroken and unsure of his future in music. One pivotal decision during this challenging time continues to haunt him.

Faced with a choice between watching his idols, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and seeing a new band formed by his former bandmates called Hadrian, Lee made a call he now considers a “terrible confession”.  

We’ll dig into the story behind this missed opportunity and explore the impact it may have had on the legendary musician.

Geddy Lee’s Early Rush Exit

In his 2023 memoir, My Effin’ Life, Geddy revealed a surprising fact – he was once kicked out of Rush shortly after joining the band. This betrayal, as Lee describes it, remains a source of lingering confusion.

Originally formed in 1968 as a trio by guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer John Rutsey, and bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones, Rush went through some early lineup changes. Due to travel restrictions, Jones suggested his school friend, Gary “Geddy” Weinrib, as a replacement.  Weinrib, upon joining, adopted the stage name Geddy Lee.

In this early phase, the band primarily played covers of popular rock acts like Jimi Hendrix and Cream, Lee’s biggest influences. They even had a revolving door of band members, including Lee’s future brother-in-law, Lindy Young, on keyboards for a brief period.

The Fall and Rise of Rush’s Young Quartet

By 1969, Rush had solidified into a four-piece with the addition of keyboard player Lindy Young. This period marked a time of rapid change for the band.

In a surprising move, booking agent Ray Daniels, with no prior experience managing musical acts, became their manager. However, Daniels held a strong dislike for Lee and pushed for his removal from the band.

Lee, reflecting on this period in a 2012 interview with Classic Rock, attributed his ousting largely to Daniels’ influence. “He started directing the band,” Lee explained, “and he just thought I wasn’t suitable, for whatever reasons he had. I don’t know whether it was the way I looked, or my religious background – who the f— knew? Anyway, he influenced them and they went along with it, Alex Lifeson and John Rutsey, and I was out.”

Uncovering the Betrayal 

Years later, promoting his My Effin’ Life on Q1043 New York, Lee revisited the story of his unexpected exit from early Rush. He recounted heading to rehearsal one day and running into Lindy, who Lee suspects was tasked with delivering the bad news.

Lee believes Young misled him, claiming the band had broken up, rather than revealing his own dismissal. Unsurprisingly, Lee was shocked by this revelation.

Heartbroken by the experience, Lee channeled his emotions into forming a new blues band. Meanwhile, the remaining members of Rush, now minus Lee, recruited bassist and vocalist Joe Perna. Lee maintains, perhaps with a hint of satisfaction, that this incarnation, dubbed Hadrian, was a short-lived flop. Disbanding after just two shows, it seems Perna wasn’t the right fit for the band’s future direction.

Missed Opportunities and Lingering Regrets

This period wasn’t just about the sting of rejection for Lee. It was compounded by a missed opportunity of epic proportions. Lee held tickets to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience in Toronto – a dream come true for any aspiring musician, especially one who idolized Hendrix.

However, driven by a misguided sense of loyalty (or perhaps a sliver of hope for reconciliation), Lee chose to attend a performance by Hadrian. He later confessed to a radio station that this decision was a “terrible” mistake.

This turned out to be a lifelong regret for Lee. Hendrix tragically passed away shortly after, leaving Lee without the chance to witness the legendary guitarist live  The memory of watching a subpar band with a weak frontman, especially in contrast to the missed Hendrix concert, only intensified Lee’s internal turmoil at the time.


A Night of Wrong Choices and Lasting Impact

Lee recounted the events in detail: “I think he had been arrested coming into the country for drug possession, but the show did go on, and I wasn’t there. I just assumed, ‘He’ll come back sometime, and I’ll see him then’, but unfortunately for the world, he passed away not long after that.”

Adding to the weight of his regret, Lee made a contrasting decision. Instead of Hendrix, Lee continued, “But I went to see this crappy version of Rush that they had put together, called themselves Hadrian, and it was painful to watch because they weren’t very good and it didn’t make me feel any better.”

The bassist even called it karma that Hadrian broke up after a couple of shows. Lee went on, “I think it made me feel worse that they replaced me with someone that couldn’t really handle the gig and it wasn’t long before they just fell apart. I think that’s called karma.”

Return and Eventual Success

Lee’s return to Rush wasn’t solely driven by musical considerations. When asked about his motivation, Lee revealed a simpler truth: his friendship with Lifeson.

While his own band was finding more success than the short-lived Hadrian, Lee yearned to play alongside his high school friend again.

Acknowledging the fortunate turn of events, Lee said with a wry smile, “That was a good decision.” It seems the allure of camaraderie proved stronger than any other factor, ultimately leading to the Rush reunion that music fans would celebrate for years to come.

Listen to Geddy share the story and more in the video below: