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Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Till Deaf Do Us Part

Track 172 | It's a nice day for a white wedding.

Photo: Geddy Lee Archives.

I have been reading Geddy Lee‘s charming, ultra-Canadian new autobiography My Effin’ Life, which I picked up as soon as I finished Andy Summers’ incredible One Train Later. Highly recommend both.

The two men didn’t cross paths much, even though the most successful years of their careers lined up. Of course, both bands made some of their best music at the sadly long-gone Le Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec — and The Police get a few mentions in My Effin’ Life. If you sit down with the two memoirs you’ll notice Lee and Summers sound and speak quite differently, and only Summers has enjoyed enormous singles-chart success. But they do have a few key things in common — obviously, a commitment to being original and creative with their talent and ability, but also managing to remain with the loves of their life despite decades as rock stars. And, for both men and their wives, the road was a bumpy one — due mostly to “the road” and the amount of time touring musicians spend away from home.

Both Geddy and Summers’ books give detailed explanations as to the many ways their musical preoccupations made them rather useless husbands. Both men are very open about what they believe were their shortcomings, their missteps and their skewed priorities. Both were able to stay with their partners — Geddy, seemingly, through repeated couples therapy sessions and Summers by starting over.

Summers was actually married twice, but has been with his second wife Kate since the early 1970s. They were married from 1973 to 1981 and then remarried in 1985 after The Police split. They have three kids — daughter Layla was born in 1978 and their twin boys Maurice X and Anton Y arrived two years after the second wedding. In all, they’ve been hitched for nearly 50 years.

Lee and his wife Nancy have been together since 1970, when they were teenagers. Not even old enough to vote or drink. Apart from a brief break, they’ve been an item ever since, tying the knot in 1976. Nancy has said she needed to get a career and life of her own, otherwise there’s no way they would have lasted. Geddy was simply never home. The year they were married, Rush played 160 shows. The following year, 179. The band didn’t have a year with fewer than 100 shows until 1982 — and that’s just gigs. This doesn’t include studio sessions, rehearsals and travel. Let’s just use 1977 as an example: 179 gigs + a month of rehearsals + a month in studio = 239 days. Travel time between shows? The year was basically a writeoff. Nancy was married to a voice on the telephone. It just makes their enduring relationship all the more impressive. So I decided to find some other examples of rock marriages which — somehow — have stood the test of time.

One imagines that if Linda McCartney hadn’t died of breast cancer in 1998, she and Sir Paul would still be together. The pair were married in 1969 and tackled the specter of tour separation by going on the road together — not just as husband and wife, but as bandmates. Paul included Linda as a member of Wings throughout the 1970s and the couple even brought their gaggle of young children on the road with them, around the world.

When you hear the older McCartney kids talk about their childhood, they unanimously gush about their parents. That strikes me as rare, and it suggests the Band On The Run/Family On The Road approach had the desired effect. And, while Paul and Linda were together for nearly 30 years when Linda died, since then Paul has been married twice — first to Heather Mills from 2002 to 2006, and then to Nancy Shevell, to whom he’s been married for 12 years. McCartney, now 81, was engaged twice before Linda — to Jane Asher and Dot Rhone.

It’s also a pretty safe bet that John Lennon and Yoko Ono would still be married if he had not been assassinated in 1980. Even though they had a year-long separation in 1973-’74 during their 12 years as a couple, they seemed to be two people very much in love and very involved in each other’s careers.

Ringo Starr and wife Barbara Bach will celebrate 43 years married this spring — but, really, Ringo is likely a much easier man to be married to now than he was in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s far more impressive to look at someone like John Paul Jones, who has been married to Maureen Hegarty since 1967 — before, during and after his time in Led Zeppelin. Nearly 60 years.

In terms of “keeping up with the Joneses,” the very guarded and private marriage of Dolly Parton and Carl Dean actually has one year on them. They’ve been married since 1966.

One of Geddy’s brothers-in-bass, Queen’s John Deacon got married a year before Ged and Nancy. Deacon and Veronica Tetzlaff will celebrate 50 years together in January 2025. No surprise that perhaps the best-known song he wrote for Queen was You’re My Best Friend.

Then again, maybe this all speaks to the romantic integrity of bass players? Lee, McCartney, Deacon, Jones… hmmm. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Geddy’s bandmate Alex Lifeson has been married to his partner Charlene one year longer, and just like Geddy and Nancy, Alex and Charlene have been together since they were teenagers.

What about frontmen? Are they not capable of long-lasting relationships? Sure they are. How about Alice Cooper? He married Sheryl Goddard a year after they met while she was a dancer on his 1975 Welcome To My Nightmare tour. Goddard was with Alice during the worst of his addictions and the leanest years of his career. He didn’t get sober until the mid-’80s. Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson got married to another dancer, Shona Learoyd, the same year as Cooper. Another frontman, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, has been married to his wife Suzette since 1981, but they’ve been together longer — since 1976 when he was 21 and she was just 15.

U2 frontman Bono and his wife Allison Stewart have been together since 1976 — the entire time the band has been together. They didn’t get officially married until the summer of 1982. But that’s yet another rocker who met the love of his life at age 17.

Finally, the shining star as he was in so many ways, late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts got married to his wife Shirley Shepherd in 1964, just as the band was getting, well, rolling. They had met a year earlier, before the band formed. When Charlie died in 2021, they had been together for 58 years. Shirley died in 2022.

There’s no time to lose, I heard her say.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.