Tom Sawyer is a song by Canadian rock band Rush, named after Mark Twain's literary character. The song was released on Mercury Records and PolyGram in 1981 on the Moving Pictures album and numerous compilations thereafter, such as 1990's Chronicles. It has also appeared on several live albums and bootlegs. The song relies heavily on Geddy Lee's synthesizer playing and the techniques of drummer Neil Peart. Geddy Lee has referred to the track as the band's "defining piece of music...from the early '80s".[1] It is one of Rush's best-known songs and is a staple of classic rock radio. It reached #25 in the UK Singles chart in October 1981[2] and in the US peaked at #44 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #8 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.[3] In 2009 it was named the 19th-greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.[4] "Tom Sawyer" was one of five Rush songs inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on March 28, 2010.[5]


 [hide*1 Origin


The song was written by Lee, Peart, and guitarist Alex Lifeson in collaboration with Canadian lyricist Pye Dubois (the lyricist of Max Webster), who also co-wrote other Rush songs such as "Force Ten," "Between Sun and Moon," and "Test For Echo." According to the US radio show In the Studio with Redbeard (which devoted an entire episode to the making of Moving Pictures), "Tom Sawyer" came about during a summer rehearsal holiday that Rush spent at Ronnie Hawkins' farm outsideToronto. Peart was presented with a poem by Dubois named "Louis the Lawyer" (often cited as "Louis the Warrior")[6] that he modified and expanded. Lee and Lifeson then helped set the poem to music. The unique growling sound heard in the song came from Lee's fiddling with his Oberheim OB-X synthesizer.[7][8]

In the December 1985 Rush Backstage Club newsletter, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart said:

Tom Sawyer was a collaboration between myself and Pye Dubois, an excellent lyricist who wrote the lyrics for Max Webster. His original lyrics were kind of a portrait of a modern day rebel, a free-spirited individualist striding through the world wide-eyed and purposeful. I added the themes of reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be - namely me I guess.

Alex Lifeson describes his guitar solo in "Tom Sawyer" in a 2007 interview:

I winged it. Honest! I came in, did five takes, then went off and had a cigarette. I'm at my best for the first two takes; after that, I overthink everything and I lose the spark. Actually, the solo you hear is composed together from various takes.[9]

"Tom Sawyer" begins in 4/4 before switching to 7/8 and 13/16 in the instrumental section. When the instrumental section ends, it returns to 4/4 before changing again to 7/8 for the outro.

In popular culture[edit]Edit

In film[edit]Edit

In television[edit]Edit

In video games[edit]Edit

  • The song was released as a downloadable bonus track for Rocksmith on November 13th, 2012.
  • A cover version of the song was featured in 2007's Rock Band, with the original released as DLC later.


(Alphabetized by artist)

Other uses[edit]Edit

  • "Pass The Mic, Tom: Beastie Boys vs. Rush" by Melody Lanes - a mashup of the Beastie Boys' "Pass The Mic" and Rush's "Tom Sawyer"
  • "All Night" - a song by Mike Shinoda featuring Styles of Beyond from his mixtape We Major features the music of Tom Sawyer
  • All-Pro Football 2K8 has the song in its soundtrack,
  • Some of the Live performances starts with a short opening sequence with characters from the American TV show South Park. The sequence shows CartmanKyleStan and Kenny trying play the intro to Tom Sawyer as Lil' Rush, which ends up with Cartman getting the opening lyrics wrong and Kyle forcing Cartman to start again, as the boys just about to start the song again the sequence ends and Rush starts playing Tom Sawyer.[23]
  • Until late 2012, The Toucher and Rich Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston used the song (with alternate lyrics) as the intro to their final segment, You Listened, Now Discuss.
  • On his 2013 tour, Kid Rock used the instrumental version of Tom Sawyer as the beat for his song "Forever."
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