"Limelight" as written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson....
Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage

Cast in this unlikely role
Ill-equipped to act
With insufficient tact
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact

Living in the limelight
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation
Get on with the fascination
The real relation
The underlying theme

Living in a fish eye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can't pretend a stranger
Is a long-awaited friend

All the world's indeed a stage
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another's audience
Outside the gilded cage

Living in the limelight
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation
Get on with the fascination
The real relation
The underlying theme

Living in the limelight
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation
Get on with the fascination
The real relation
The underlying theme
The real relation
The underlying theme


Lyrics submitted by MasterDuncan03, edited by molson420

"Limelight" as written by Gary Lee Weinrib Neil Elwood Peart

Lyrics © OLE MEDIA MANAGEMENT LP

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Limelight song meanings
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51 Comments

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  • +7
    General CommentI read through most of the comments, and everyone seems to be missing the real relation, the underlying theme.
    bassjaredon March 19, 2010   Link
  • +6
    General CommentThis was most likely written while they were on the Permanent Waves Tour ~25 years ago. Freewill and Spirit of Radio were getting good radio play, and the band was expeiencing a bloom of exposure. Mr Peart is a very private introverted person. From what I have read he responds poorly to people getting too familiar with him (and misproununcing his name) This song is Neil Peart attempting to express those feelings without making it so personal. I read somewhere that it took him effort to not write "I must put up barriers to keep myself intact" and to move the statement to the 3rd person. In moving this to the 3rd person, Mr Peart generalizes the experience, and makes it more accessible to anyone who finds themselves moved up before they are ready. I don't think Neil Peart is sitting atop his mansion whining about his good fortune, rather I think he is showing that there are negative experiences that come with sudden thrusts of fame, and that for some ppl, these experiences are quite nightmare like. The recent tragedies in Mr Peart's life only drive the point of this song home.
    Dantorpon July 16, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General CommentHow often does Shakespeare get quoted in rock and roll?

    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:

    From As You Like It
    rufustfireflyon February 01, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentOn a literal level, the song is about living as a performer. But, the deep meaning of the song is very spiritual. The writer if this song understands that our earthy life is merely an illusion with a greater purpose. Most of us who see this earthy life as a fixed reality choose to "seem". Those who know there is a higher purpose and seek to find it choose to "be". Our purpose for being here is simply to "be" so that we can realize who our souls are. If you understand and seek your higher self, you will feel alienated from the world. But, you must to discover this "fascination". The author is struggling with this himself. He sees God as a stranger, and admits that he cannot pretend otherwise. He is searching.
    Buggison April 12, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIf you liked this, listen to Subdivisions, 2112 Overture, and (imho) Force Ten.

    First two are mega-hits, and the last one is just them rocking out. And soooo gooood.

    As for this song, yeah, Neil got hit hard by stardom. And to top it all off, his life is quite tragic. Never knew what he went through just recently until I looked up the band on a whim.
    Planeswalker817on August 07, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe second verse to me, means that Neil didn't know he was going to be a famous drummer. (He was "cast in this unlikely role".)

    And the second line of that same verse, "Ill-equipped to act", means that he doesn't know how to act around people, or the public. Everyone just knows him as a drummer; not as a person.

    Then, "One must put up barriers to keep oneself in tact" means that he must block himself, from the public in a way as to not be overwhelmed by people.

    And, the limelight -- the spot light. Everybody can see him, and knows who he is.

    (Although, Alex takes the spotlight with his solo!)
    NUMBER 4on May 27, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAlthough I loved so many of Rush's songs, this song has always been my favorite. For me, the meaning of the song isn't so important as the different, subtle musical nuances within the songs chorus. I play several instruments, so what sticks out to me within the chorus is I LOVE the clean guitar part there; what Neil is doing and the synth parts. Although I love this song from a musically analytical standpoint, it does touch off a lot of emotions and memories from growing up (and older) with this song since first hearing it when I was 14...
    sentimentalsteveon March 08, 2010   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationFirst off, the song was most definitely written by Rush with lyrics by Neil Peart. Alan Parson's Project also recorded a song called Limelight, but it is a completely different song. The writing credits are a mistake by whomever put these lyrics up.

    There is no need to speculate on what the song is about, as Rush have explained this ad nauseum in various interviews. Neil Peart is a well-known and unapologetic introvert who is completely uncomfortable with fame and living in the public eye. While he enjoys the respect and recognition that come from being a performer, he is completely uncomfortable with adulation and being idolized. This is why he doesn't engage in "meet and greets" with fans. He is shy and introverted and cannot relate to them, which is eloquently reflected in the song's line "I can't pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend".

    Basically, he is saying that in order for him to continue to be a creative artist and performer, he must separate himself from the public that adores him. He simply lacks the tools to cope otherwise. It is a very honest and personal song; one of the best pieces of rock lyricism ever.
    madman911on May 26, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commentnagomnai:

    "...Garbage has a very valid point to make - I disagree strongly, but the point is no less valid - it's someone's personal take on the song which stirs up comments from others.."

    Everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, but if you're trying to say that everybody's opinions are equally VALID then your critical thinking's for the shits..
    goldsacon November 14, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI can see where the people who think this is narcissistic whining are coming from, but I always thought the song was more like a primer--"OK, you want to be famous? Here's what to expect." It not only talks about the realities of fame but gives some advice on how to handle it:

    "Put aside the alienation" (Accept the fact that fame creates barriers and dislocates you from your previous life, and move forward)
    "Get on with the fascination" (Be true to your creativity and continue to do your thing)
    "The real relation, the underlying theme" (The relationship with your work, and the spirit of what you want to do creatively).

    Musically this is Rush's best song; the arrangement and the chord progression into the refrain are sublime.
    law4on June 24, 2010   Link

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