On Saturday, March 14, Canadian rock legends RUSH received the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award at the 44th annual Juno Awards in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
The honor is given to "outstanding Canadian artists whose contributions have positively enhanced the social fabric of Canada," according to the Juno Awards web site.
RUSH's longtime manager Ray Danniels, founder of Anthem Records, was also given the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award for his contributions to the Canadian music business.
RUSH bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee "gratefully" accepted the award on behalf of the band, but added he felt uncomfortable receiving "an award for doing something that you should do."
In a recent interview with Billboard.com, RUSH guitarist Alex Lifeson stated about the latest nod: "It's really nice to get this acknowledgement, but honestly, this is something that's just a duty for everyone. Lots of people are generous and do things like this, and it's the right thing, I think, when you're in a position to help those who are needy or less fortunate. Then it's kind of our duty as human beings to do that, and it's not a big deal. I can't remember [certain details] because I don't really think about it."
With more than 40 million records sold worldwide and countless sold-out tours, RUSH is not only one of the most inventive and compelling groups in rock history, but remains one of the most popular. According to the RIAA, RUSH's sales statistics place them third for the most consecutive gold/platinum studio albums by a rock band, topped only by THE BEATLES and THE ROLLING STONES. In addition to their commercial success, RUSH has been recognized with nine JUNO Awards and seven Grammy nominations, including one for the acclaimed documentary "Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage". The group has remained unwaveringly committed and daring throughout their musical journey, and the same characteristics can be used to describe their charitable dedication.
Over the course of their four-decade-long career, the members of RUSH have thrown their support behind a wide variety of worthy causes often privately and sometimes publicly. From their earliest shows at Toronto's historic Maple Leaf Gardens, the band started working with the Toronto Food Bank to encourage fans to bring food for those in need. Eventually deciding to do their first charity concert at Maple Leaf Gardens to benefit the United Way in the early '80s, and an amFAR show to benefit AIDS research in the early '90s, engaging themselves and their fans in positive pursuits naturally became part of the RUSH ethos.
As dedicated advocates of human rights, in 2008 RUSH donated $100,000 from a Winnipeg concert's gate to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. In the same year, on their "Snakes & Arrows" tour, the band donated $100,000 from their show in New Orleans to Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation to assist in the revitalization of the city post Hurricane Katrina, and sponsor the construction of a house in The Lower Ninth Ward dubbed "The House that Rush Built."
From their 2010 "Time Machine" tour onwards, RUSH has donated $1 from every concert ticket sold to various charities including Doctors Without Borders, a total which will soon surpass $2 million over these last five years. In 2013, the band performed an incredibly successful benefit concert at Red Deer's Enmax Centrium with all proceeds going to the Canadian Red Cross to help victims of the flooding that devastated many regions of southern Alberta. The event raised over $575,000 and was one of the largest donations made to the Alberta Flood Relief.
RUSH has also been a passionate supporter of Little Kids Rock, a national non-profit organization that works to restore and revitalize music education programs in disadvantaged U.S. public schools. In efforts to provide percussion instruments to schools, the group created a premium Neil Peart Paragon Cymbal Pack, each of which came with a free splash cymbal personalized, autographed and dated by the RUSH drummer himself. This cause-based marketing initiative went on to raise over $50,000 for Little Kids Rock. Working with their endorsement companies, they have set up partnerships for their signature items which have seen many positive charitable efforts such as Neil Peart with DW, Sabian and ProMark, where one campaign raised over $60,000 for Child Advocates. Alex Lifeson has donated royalties from his signature Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess guitar to the Dominic Triano Foundation for guitar music scholarships.
The band members have also donated their time, funds and awareness through their personal interests and events. An avid baseball fan, Geddy Lee donated close to 400 signed baseballs by former Negro League baseball players from his personal collection to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City in 2008. Alex Lifeson is a supporter of Casey House, as well as The Kidney Foundation to which he donates his paintings to assist in their fundraising. During the band's South American tour in 2010, Neil Peart was moved by the rescue of the trapped miners in Chile. When he wrote a story about his experiences touring in South America, he rallied RUSH fans and his readers to make a $1 donation for his story. Neil matched their donations, and together they raised $10,000 for the Chilean Red Cross.
For over 10 years, Geddy Lee has been an active board member for the Grapes For Humanity Canada charity, an organization that raises funds to benefit humanitarian causes around the world with the assistance of the international wine community. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson co-host their bi-annual "Grapes Under Pressure" wine event supporting the local wine growing regions of Ontario. All three members of the band support this cause through their "Grapes Under Pressure" eBay auction of RUSH memorabilia. These combined events have raised over $500,000 to date.