Canadian prog rock band Rush may have officially retired in 2015, but their philanthropic work is still going strong. On April 20, they will receive the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award for their social activism and humanitarian work in addition to their long musical career. The award will be presented during the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards dinner in Toronto, one of many events during Canadian Music Week.
“They’re giving us an award for doing what everyone should do,” said band member Geddy Lee in an interview with Billboard. “It should be a part of everyone’s upbringing and routine of life: you share when you’ve been blessed with good fortune. The world needs a lot of work, and there are not enough workers. We try to help where we can.”
The award comes with a $40,000 endowment, which Rush has decided to donate to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research at Sunnybrook. The Fund studies treatment for currently incurable brain cancer. It’s named for Rush’s fellow Canadian musician Gord Downie, frontman of the band Tragically Hip, who announced in 2016 that he has terminal brain cancer.
“We are thrilled to learn Rush has made such a donation,” said Dr. James Perry, head of neurology at Sunnybrook. “The Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research will help give us the tools we need to find ways to treat the untreatable. Right now we are investigating new drugs, surgical techniques, and genetic therapies….The funds so generously donated by Rush will support us as we continue our pioneering work to the benefit of brain cancer patients not only across Canada but around the world.”
Rush has made philanthropy an important part of their career since the beginning. With their first album, released in 1974, they’ve garnered a huge legion of fans, whose enthusiasm they’ve leveraged to make a real difference in the world. Rush’s concerts at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens were also food drives for the Toronto Food Bank. They’ve held benefit shows for United Way and amFAR. During the Alberta floods in 2013, they held a benefit show that raised $575,000 to help with repairs and support. And beginning with their 2010 Time Machine Tour, Rush has donated $1 from every concert ticket to a variety of charity organizations, including Doctors Without Borders.
The band generally doesn’t broadcast much about their charity work, but according to Canadian Music Week, funds from concerts during their last five years have totalled almost $2 million.
“It’s like paying it forward,” said band member Alex Lifeson. “We’re so fortunate in so many ways, and if you can just help out, in any way you can, that’s a great way to do it.”