Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rush's "Limelight" and Shakespeare

This is a continuation of a series of posts talking about and analyzing Shakespearean references in modern day songs. With this theme for my upcoming posts, I hope to show that Shakespeare is still relevant in pop culture, specifically in modern day music. You can find my first post, an analysis of Bob Dylan's song "Desolation Row," here.

For this post, I would like to analyze the Rush classic, "Limelight." For those of you not familiar with Rush's music, they are a Canadian band formed in 1968 whose music is very progressive in nature. They are one of the most talented rock groups in rock music and have received much critical acclaim. As cited on Wikipedia,"as a group, Rush possesses 24 gold records and 14 platinum (3 multi-platinum) records. Rush's sales statistics place them third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. Rush also ranks 79th in U.S. album sales with 25 million units."

Now that we have a little background information on the group, we can analyze the song!

Limelight was released in1981 on the bands album Moving Pictures. In the actual song there are many Shakespearean references, but the most overt reference is at the end of the song. The final stanza states the following:
All the world's indeed a stage
And we are merely players:
Performers and portrayers,
Each another's audience
Outside the gilded cage.
This stanza makes reference to Act 2 Scene 7 of Shakespeare's play As You Like It. The purpose of the song is to speak openly about the demands of performing on stage and being famous. The lyrics were written by the band's drummer, Neil Peart, and speak heavily of the the his need to maintain somewhat of a private lifestyle despite being famous. "Limelight" uses Shakespeare's prose to suggest that everyone in life is an actor in some way or another and that we are all one another's audience.

Rush's use of parts of Shakespeare's work show that the band felt that Shakespeare's wisdom and ideas were still applicable today. They have taken Shakespeare's work and have applied it to a modern setting in order to help their audience relate to the main idea of the song.

Here is a link to the song:

Also, for those of you looking for more information on Rush and "Limelight," you can find it here and here.