‘Close Encounters,’ ‘Xanadu’ Similarities: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, John Williams, Who, If Anyone, Influenced Who?

Dare I be so bold as to hold up my writing as art, I can admit to shamelessly attempting to emulate literary greats like Harper Lee and Ayn Rand, among many others. Reading what I have written, I would hope that this wouldn’t be seen as overly surprising. I can also honestly admit to being influenced by the Canadian progressive rock band, Rush, as much as it is possible for a writer to be influenced by musicians. I could write thousands of words on this subject. I have a feeling that many men my age would understand.

If you like Rush, I think that you will find what I have to share to be more than interesting. As a Canadian man in my forties, who, as a 12-year-old, was privileged enough to witness the spectacle of a live Rush performance at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto in 1984, I was thoroughly intrigued by it.

Were John Williams and Stephen Spielberg influenced by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart of Rush's, 'Xanadu' when the finalized the musical score for the 1977 film 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind?'

When I first discovered this, I attempted to follow a timeline, following the dates each artist recorded each work, establishing precedents. Doing this, I found something that surprised me. The trail I followed led to a novel by Charlotte Brontë, written in 1847, Jane Eyre, one that I have not yet read. The influence of the novel is plain to see in subsequent media produced by a range of artists over decades.

Comparisons have been made by fans with the John Williams Fan Network between Bernard Herrmann’s 1944 Jane Eyre soundtrack and John Williams’ soundtrack for the 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The cited track is titled “Time Passage – The Letter” and doesn’t appear to be available for preview online. However, another Herrmann track, reported by YouTube fans to have been used in a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone, sharing the “Time Passage” title, is available for listening.

Stating the presence of similarities between the 1960 Twilight ZoneTime Passage,” hosted with YouTube, and the Close Encounters of the Third Kind soundtrack might seem reasonable.

Steven Spielberg has been quoted with regard to the John Williams musical score from 1977’s Close Encounters specifically stating that the composer began work “two years” before the film was “finalized.” The director described listening to Williams’ music before writing parts of the science fiction film’s script, as reported by Film Tracks. Close Encounters was released in November.

“After all, greetings are meant to be succinct and it’s no coincidence that the word ‘hello’ is five letters long. Williams ran through hundreds of permutations and neither man was satisfied with the results. After several sessions, Spielberg chose one out of frustration and, ironically, it was the successful and famous motif known to the world today.”

Now, finally, the part that I find interesting: the seeming similarity between Geddy Lee’s then-ultra-progressive synthesizer in Rush’s “Xanadu,” recorded in England in June 1977, and released in September, scant months before Close Encounters, would seem striking.

Is it possible that Rush was either purposefully or subconsciously influenced by Herrmann’s, or even some other artist’s, work when they wrote and recorded “Xanadu?”

Could John Williams have heard “Xanadu” while producing the Close Encounters soundtrack? A Farewell to Kings was released after Rush’s true breakout album, 2112, which might suggest that their visibility would have been high enough that the Star Wars composer might have actually heard the fairly well-known Canadian rock song.

The tune seems to make-up the basis for many portions of the rest of “Xanadu” as well.

Could it be the other way around? Was the soundtrack for Close Encounters available to the members of Rush when they were recording A Farewell to Kings in England in the spring of 1977?

Could it all just be one big coincidence? John Williams also composed a Jane Eyre soundtrack in 1970, as hosted on YouTube. None of the musicians involved, Rush, including Lifeson, Lee, and Peart, as well as Herrmann and Williams would seem to have done anything even close to improper. However, the progression of the music, and what would seem to be similarities worthy of comment, might be perceived as fascinating.

Could Williams or even Steven Spielberg have been aware of “Xanadu” when the soundtrack for Close Encounters was finalized? Or could television trailers featuring the famous Close Encounters tune have been played in the spring of 1977 and been heard by the members of Rush? Is there some other connection?

Evidence of the stars publicly speaking toward these apparent similarities is elusive.

Was John Williams influenced by Geddy Lee and Rush's 'Xanadu' when her wrote the score for the 1977 film 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind?'

[Featured Image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images]