Alex Lifeson (August 27, 1953 - ) born Alex Zivujinovich, alias "Lerxst", is the Canadian guitarist and composer with the band Rush. His
stage name is a literal translation of his Serbian name -- "Life's son."
Lifeson's parents emigrated to Canada in the early 1950's from Yugoslavia, and Alex was born in Fernie, British Columbia shortly after their arrival.
He grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, though he spoke very little
English until he entered school at age 5. His parents struggled when they
arrived in Canada; his father worked as a plumber and factory worker during
the day, and as a taxi driver at night, and his mother also worked two jobs. Lifeson was interested in music from a young age, and received his first guitar in 1966 as a Christmas gift -- the first song he learned to play was reportedly a television jingle for Noblesse Oblige brand cigarettes.
He met the members of the first incarnation of Rush in school --
drummer John Rutsey in 1963 and Gary Lee Weinrib (Geddy Lee)
in 1965 or 1966. By 1968 they had formed a band, playing the hits of
the day (The Beatles, Cream, etc.), and started to write their own
Rush struggled in the early years, and Lifeson worked at odd jobs -- plumbing
with his father, pumping gas -- to support his son and (then) girlfriend. In
or 1973, Rush cut their first single You Can't Fight It/Not Fade Away and finally recorded and independently released their first full length album
Rush in 1974. Drummer John Rutsey left the band (possibly for
health reasons related to diabetes, or over "artistic differences"),
and was replaced with drummer
and lyricist Neil Peart. The rest was history. After stumbling somewhat
after Caress of Steel and the (self-titled) "Down-The-Tubes Tour" that
followed, Rush finally achieved stardom in 1976 with the album 2112,
one of the albums that cemented Lifeson's reputation as one of the best rock
guitarists of his era. His guitar playing is a mix of straightforward rock and heavy metal,
classical and Spanish guitar, and jazz-fusion.
The bulk of Rush's music (minus the lyrics) is co-written by Lifeson with
Geddy Lee, and often feature very complex arrangements and odd time signatures.
Many of the elements of their music can be heard in his 1996 solo release
Victor, though the album itself is quite distinct from Rush's work. In
it, he explores the (much) darker side of relationships -- a radical departure
from Rush's (actually, Neil Peart's) usual themes.
Aside from his work with
Rush, he has appeared on a few other releases including albums by Larry
Gowan and I Mother Earth, and also recorded "O Canada" with
Geddy on the South Park soundtrack. More recently, he recorded the theme
song to the new Sci-Fi television show "Andromeda", in which he used
computer sampling to overdub thousands of guitars at once. Rush itself
was on a recording hiatus for several years after Test For Echo was
released. This was in part because of the loss of Neil Peart's daughter
Selena and wife Jackie within the space of a year (the former to a car
accident, the latter to cancer - he has since remarried), and the birth of a
daughter to Geddy and his wife. They reentered the studio for another album
in early 2001, and released the album Vapor Trails in
May 2002. His latest release with Rush is Feedback, an EP of cover songs from the 1960's, which the band recorded to celebrate their 30-th anniversary together. It is slated for release in the US on June 29, 2004.
Lifeson has won several "Guitar Player of the Year" awards from various
guitar magazines, and with Rush has won several Juno Awards as well as The Order of Canada. Outside of his music, Lifeson is a licensed private
pilot, and owns a restaurant in Toronto called "The Orbit Room" where
he occasionally sits in with the house band, The Dexters.
Though Rush has avoided generating negative publicity for themselves (or, really, any publicity at all honestly), Lifeson was arrested on New Year's Day 2004 for assault and battery on a police officer, following a fracas at a hotel in Naples, Florida. He ultimately pled no contest to two charges, and will have his record expunged following a year's probation. He is currently pursuing civil charges against the police officers involved and the hotel management alleging unlawful arrest, misconduct, and assault.
Lifeson has a wife, Charlene (who recorded a dialogue with a friend on the
CD on the song "Shut Up Shuttin' Up"), and two sons Justin and Adrian, born
in 1970 and 1977. Both of his sons were involved in music at some point
in their lives, and his younger son, Adrian Zivujinovich, appeared on
the Victor CD, handling some of the synthesizer programming. Lifeson also has two
sisters and two half-brothers. He currently lives outside of Toronto.
Sources: various radio and print interviews, and the Rush FAQ at www.nimitz.net/rush/.