Survivor are an American rock band, formed in Chicago in 1978 by Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan. The band achieved its best success in the 1980s, producing many charting singles, especially in the United States. The band is best-known for its double-platinum-certified 1982 hit "Eye of the Tiger", the theme song for the 1982 motion picture Rocky III; that single spent six weeks at number one in the US. The band continued to chart in the mid-1980s with singles like "Burning Heart" (US number 2), "The Search Is Over" (US number 4), "High on You" (US number 8), "Is This Love" (US number 9), and "I Can't Hold Back" (US number 13).
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|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Labels||Scotti Brothers, PolyGram, Frontiers|
|Associated acts||The Ides of March, Cobra, Target, Pride of Lions, McAuley Schenker Group|
Before Survivor formed, Jim Peterik was the lead vocalist–guitarist for the band The Ides of March. In the mid 1970s, The Jim Peterik Band was formed after Peterik had released his album Don't Fight the Feeling on Epic Records in 1976. In the liner notes of the album, written by Jim Charney, Peterik is referred to as a "survivor.” This note was the inspiration for the name of Peterik's next grouping.
Drummer Gary Smith and bassist Dennis Keith Johnson had both been members of Bill Chase's jazz-rock fusion band Chase; Peterik had worked with Chase in 1974. One of the other inspirations for Peterik's choice of the new band's name was his narrow escape from death when he was unable to make a guest appearance at a Chase concert scheduled for Jackson, Minnesota on August 9, 1974. He ended up not being on the plane that crashed, killing Bill Chase and most of his band.
In 1978, the Jim Peterik Band had dissolved, and Jim was considering returning to singing and producing jingles. After several days of pleading with Peterik, road manager/sound man Rick Weigand persuaded him to meet with guitarist Frankie Sullivan (ex-Mariah). Within an hour of that first meeting, the band Survivor was born. Johnson and Smith were recruited and Peterik brought in singer Dave Bickler (ex-Jamestown Massacre), who had worked with Peterik in Chicago on commercial jingles sessions.
In September 1978, Survivor played their very first show at Lyons Township High School in La Grange, Illinois. After playing in small clubs during the rest of that year, one of them being the original My Pi pizzeria near Loyola University Chicago, where they headlined every Saturday night in the upstairs bar area, Survivor was signed by Atlantic Records A&R executive John Kalodner. One of Survivor's earliest performances (their second gig, according to Peterik, in his autobiography Through the Eye of the Tiger), from Haymakers Rock Club in Wheeling, Illinois on September 15, 1978, has appeared as a bootleg recording in trader's circles in recent years.
The group's first album, the self-titled Survivor, was recorded in 1979 and released on the Atlantic subsidiary Scotti Bros. in February 1980. The album produced no Top 40 singles ("Somewhere in America" only managed to make number 70) and did not achieve the level of success that the band had hoped for.
During Survivor's first album, Peterik played rhythm guitar. All keyboards were performed by lead singer Dave Bickler (who plays several instruments), but Peterik's role quickly became backing vocals, keyboards and co-songwriter by 1981, with some keyboard parts being performed on records by session players per the producers.
In 1981, it was decided to let Johnson and Smith go as they had schedule conflicts with their other projects and were a bit "too jazzy" in their approach, according to Peterik. They were replaced by Sullivan's friend and drummer Marc Droubay and bassist Stephan Ellis, whom Peterik and Sullivan had spotted playing in a band at Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace in the Los Angeles, CA area.
Both Droubay and Ellis came aboard in time for the recording of the band's follow-up album, Premonition (August 1981). It charted higher, achieving popularity with American audiences and gave the band its first Top 40 single, "Poor Man's Son". The album also showed off Bickler's range as a vocalist with its second single, "Summer Nights" and fan favorite non-singles, like "Heart's A Lonely Hunter", "Take You On A Saturday", "Runway Lights" and "Love Is On My Side".
Eye of the Tiger
In 1982 Survivor's breakthrough arrived when actor Sylvester Stallone asked them to provide the theme song for his movie Rocky III. Stallone had heard "Poor Man's Son" and wanted a song similar to it and to Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust". The band agreed to his request and soon came up with "Eye of the Tiger".
The new song featured a faster tempo than "Poor Man's Son" while still incorporating the stylish, nearly identical power chords. It had an enormous impact on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 1, remaining there for six weeks and was in the Top 40 for a total of eighteen weeks. It also topped the British charts and was Australia's number 1 single for four weeks.
"Eye" went on to win the band the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, was voted Best New Song by the People's Choice Awards and received an Academy Award nomination.
The album of the same title, Eye of the Tiger, was released by the band in June 1982 and contained another Top 40 hit in the United States, "American Heartbeat" (number 17 US) and " The One That Really Matters" (number 74 US). The album charted at number 2 in the States.
In 1983 Survivor tried to duplicate the success of Eye of the Tiger with their next release, Caught in the Game (September 1983). The album turned out to be a commercial disappointment, stalling at number 82 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S., while the album's title track peaked at number 77.
The band suffered a further setback when lead singer Dave Bickler suffered vocal problems and was required to undergo an operation to remove vocal fold nodules, a very common ailment in singers, that required rest which Peterik and Sullivan were unwilling to do. Bickler was fired and the band's record label, yet again, failed to do much in the way of promotion of what many feel was a superior album overall to Eye Of The Tiger one year before. In early 1984, Bickler was replaced by Jimi Jamison of the bands Target and Cobra.
1984–1988: Jimi Jamison era
The band's first song to feature Jimi Jamison was "The Moment of Truth", the theme song of the box office smash hit The Karate Kid (1984), which peaked at number 63 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1984. Next came Survivor's first album with Jamison, Vital Signs (August 1984), which provided the band with a massive comeback, peaking at number 16 on the Billboard Album Chart with the hits "I Can't Hold Back" (number 13 US), "High on You" (number 8 US), and "The Search Is Over" (number 4 US).
In 1985 the band went on tour with Bryan Adams, performing sold-out concerts at Nashville's War Memorial Auditorium, the Dallas Convention Center, the San Antonio Convention Center and the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans. Later that year they had another hit with "Burning Heart", a song from the Rocky IV soundtrack, which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1986.
When Seconds Count was released in October 1986 and included the hit "Is This Love" (number 9 U.S.). On the Billboard Album Chart the album only reached number 49 but still managed to sell over 500,000 copies and reached certified gold status.
In 1987 bassist Ellis developed a stomach ulcer requiring the band's head roadie, Rocko Reedy, to fill in on bass for a few dates. These health problems ultimately forced him out of the group. Drummer Droubay, who was becoming increasingly unhappy with the group's shift to a more pop sound, was likewise released at the end of Survivor's 1987 tour.
During pre-production of their seventh album, Too Hot to Sleep (October 1988), Ellis and Droubay were replaced by studio session veterans drummer Mickey Curry and bassist Bill Syniar, formerly of the band Tantrum. Sullivan produced the effort with Frank Filipetti. Though the album presented a harder-rocking Survivor, similar to the sound in the band's early days, Too Hot to Sleep failed to make a significant dent on the chart (only number 187 US).
There were, reportedly, a few live dates done by the band during this period (including a stint as opening act for Cheap Trick on "The Flame" Tour of North America) that included Syniar on bass and Kyle Woodring on drums.
1988–2000: Hiatus, Bickler's return and legal issues
After the disappointing sales of Too Hot to Sleep, Jamison decided to start work on a solo album and Peterik and Sullivan decided to put the band on indefinite hiatus in the fall of 1988. A Greatest Hits compilation was released in late 1989.
Jamison's debut solo album, When Love Comes Down, was released in July 1991 and he decided to continue touring and playing Survivor songs with local musicians. Meanwhile, the Survivor rhythm section of Ellis and Droubay decided to form the group Club M.E.D. with guitarist Rod McClure, releasing the album Sampler in 1990. Peterik co-wrote "The Sound of Your Voice", "Rebel to Rebel" and "Treasure" for 38 Special's 1991 album Bone Against Steel.
In 1992 Jamison toured, now billing his band as "Survivor" or "Jimi Jamison's Survivor". After Jamison's success touring overseas that year, Sullivan contacted Jamison's management and asked to be included on the tour; he performed on eight to ten dates before leaving the group. Soon after, in late 1992 to early 1993, Survivor was tapped to make a new and more extensive hits package with two new songs. For a short time, Peterik, Sullivan and Jamison were reunited in the studio to record new material for the new package and forthcoming world tour. But after contract talks faltered, Jamison quit and went back on the road again as "Jimi Jamison's Survivor".
In early 1993, Peterik and Sullivan reunited with original lead singer Dave Bickler as Survivor and released a new Greatest Hits album with two new songs ("Hungry Years", co-written by Bickler, and "You Know Who You Are"). They embarked on a world tour, with Bill Syniar and Kyle Woodring returning on bass and drums, respectively. Klem Hayes, who had performed on the new tracks on the 1993 compilation, took over on bass in 1994 after Syniar departed.
As Jamison was also touring as Survivor, Peterik and Sullivan filed a lawsuit against their former colleague for using the name but ultimately failed (at the time) in their bid to stop Jamison from touring under the "Survivor" banner.
On November 27, 1993 guitarist Dave Carl filled in for Sullivan at a gig at Club Dimensions in Highland, Indiana after the latter injured his ribs from falling through a garage roof.
From 1993 to 1996, Peterik, Sullivan and Bickler recorded about 20 demos for a new album (which are available on the Fire Makes Steel bootleg) with Syniar and Woodring and, later, Ellis and Droubay contributing. But they failed to secure a record deal due to ongoing litigation and trademark issues with Jamison.
In 1995 Klem Hayes departed and the bass chair was filled, first by Randy Riley (1995), then by Billy Ozzello (1995–1996).
With Peterik and Sullivan increasingly at musical and personal odds and Sullivan attempting to move the band in more of a bluesy direction, Peterik abruptly decided to leave Survivor, playing his last show with them on July 3, 1996 at the 'Eyes To The Skies' summer fest in Lisle, Illinois.
At this juncture, Sullivan and Bickler were effectively the only remaining original members of the band. Survivor replaced Peterik with composer–keyboardist Chris Grove. Peterik returned to recording and touring with The Ides of March and also formed the group Pride of Lions.
In late 1996, bassist Stephan Ellis and drummer Marc Droubay rejoined Survivor, but Ellis left again by early 1999 and was replaced by Gordon Patriarca who only played about a half a dozen shows before Billy Ozzello was brought back. Survivor then went on to record more demos for a record deal, including "Rebel Girl '98" and the Sullivan solo album cut "Lies".
In 1999 Jamison released the album Empires under the name "Jimi Jamison's Survivor" (later re-released under his own name).
In late September 1999, Sullivan, who had brought forth another lawsuit against Jamison, won ownership of the name "Survivor", thereby ending the ongoing trademark battle.
2000–2006: Bickler's departure and Jamison's return
In March 2000 Bickler was fired, severing the then Sullivan–Bickler Survivor and resulting in Sullivan's reestablishment of a partnership with Jamison. The band then began recording material for a new album. The Peterik–Sullivan-penned track "Velocitized" was set for inclusion on the soundtrack to the Stallone film Driven. However, it did not make the cut.
For 2002, they recorded "Christmas is Here" which managed to move up the Mediabase Christmas charts, reaching No. 6 as the most added holiday song at radio, and which appeared on the soundtrack A Classic Rock Christmas.
In 2003 bassist Randy Riley returned to replace Billy Ozzello.
In 2004 a Starbucks television commercial debuted for their Double Shot espresso beverage. It featured the band following a man named Glen, singing a modified version of "Eye of the Tiger" while he went about his day-to-day tasks. This commercial gained a number of fans and was nominated for an Emmy Award.
Meanwhile, original Survivor vocalist David Bickler began collaborating on the successful Bud Light beer Real Men of Genius radio ads in the late 1990s and 2000s. The Real Men of Genius ads were popular and included TV spots aired during the 2006 Super Bowl, among others. A CD package containing many of the popular commercials was recorded with Bickler, selling over 100,000 copies in its first month of release.
Bassist Stephan Ellis returned to play a few shows with the group in 2005, but Barry Dunaway played bass for most of that year. By early 2006, Billy Ozzello returned as bassist.
In April 2006, Survivor released a new album, Reach. Consisting of mostly new songs, it also included some re-recordings from the Fire Makes Steel sessions. Six of the album's songs were originally written and recorded in the 1990s with Bickler on lead vocals.
2007–present: Reunions and Jamison's death
The band performed "Eye of the Tiger" on ABC's Dancing with the Stars on April 3, 2007.
In 2008 Michael Young replaced Chris Grove on keyboards.
According to Sullivan, and revealed at Survivormusic.com on March 5, 2010, an album of new original music, Re-Entry, was to be released the following month, but no album was released. As of 2010, the lineup was a mix of old and new members: Robin McAuley (vocals), original member/songwriter Sullivan (guitar/vocals), longtime members Marc Droubay (drums) and Billy Ozzello (bass) and newcomer Mitchell Sigman (keyboards/guitar), who replaced Young.
Sullivan worked with the Chicago suburb melodic rock band Mecca, led by Chicago area native singer–songwriter Joe Knez Vana. Coincidentally, he replaced Peterik, who produced the first Mecca album. The album was released in late 2011 on Frontiers Records.
In November 2011 Jamison announced his return to Survivor. The new lineup of Jamison (vocals), Sullivan (guitar), Droubay (drums), Ozzello (bass) and Walter Tolentino (keyboards/guitar/backing vocals) announced they would begin working on a new album, which was slated for release in 2012 but has thus far not appeared.
In 2013, it was announced on the band's official media sources that Sullivan had reunited the current Survivor line-up with Bickler. "Our fans are the best and I can't think of a better way to give them our best. With this line-up, and both Dave and Jimi in the band, we can perform ALL of our hits," he said. They were also working on new material and looking forward to getting back into the studio together.
On September 1, 2014 Jamison died of what was believed to be a heart attack in his home in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 63. Jamison performed his last show on August 30, 2014, in Morgan Hill, California, at the CANcert benefit event during the ARTTEC Summer Concert Series. The benefit raised funds and awareness for two non-profit organizations that support cancer patients as well as career training opportunities for high school students. In November 2014 Classic Rock magazine carried a report that shed further light on the cause of Jimi's death: "Shelby County medical examiner confirms [Jamison] was suffering from cardiovascular disease and narrowing of the arteries. But the report cites the cause of death as a result of hemorrhagic brain stroke, with 'acute methamphetamine intoxication contributing.' His passing was ruled to be an accident."
In September 2015, Survivor appeared at a showcase for talent buyers down in Nashville, with new vocalist 21-year-old Cameron Barton singing alongside Dave Bickler. In March 2016, Bickler quit the band; this was announced via an edit on Survivor's Twitter page.
On February 28, 2019, the former Survivor bassist Stephan Ellis died at his home in California. No further details on the cause of his death were officially made available, although various Facebook posts from family members and friends indicate that he had been ill for a while, suffering from dementia, and that he spent his final days in a hospice.
- Survivor (1979)
- Premonition (1981)
- Eye of the Tiger (1982)
- Caught in the Game (1983)
- Vital Signs (1984)
- When Seconds Count (1986)
- Too Hot to Sleep (1988)
- Reach (2006)
- Live in Tokyo (1985)
- Extended Versions: The Encore Collection (2004)
- The Very Best of Survivor (1986)
- Greatest Hits (1989)
- Prime Cuts: The Classic Tracks (1998)
- Survivor Special Selection (2000)
- Fire in Your Eyes: Greatest Hits (2000)
- Ultimate Survivor (2004)
- The Best of Survivor (2006)
- Playlist: The Very Best of Survivor (2009)
- The Essential Survivor (2014)
- Fire Makes Steel: The Demos (1996)
Peak chart positions
|Title||Release||Peak chart positions||Sales||Certifications|
|Eye of the Tiger||
||2||26||1||—||—||—||—||—||—||US: 1,000,000||RIAA: Platinum|
|Caught in the Game||
|When Seconds Count||
||49||—||—||—||—||—||30||—||—||US: 500,000||RIAA: Gold|
|Too Hot to Sleep||
|Title||Release||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"Somewhere in America"||1980||70||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||Survivor|
|"Rebel Girl"||103||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||non-album single|
|"Poor Man's Son"||1981||33||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||Premonition|
|"Eye of the Tiger"||1||1||27||1||1||—||1||2||Eye of the Tiger/Rocky III soundtrack|
|"Ever Since the World Began"||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||Eye of the Tiger|
|"The One That Really Matters"||74||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Caught in the Game"||1983||77||16||—||—||—||—||—||—||Caught in the Game|
|"I Never Stopped Loving You"||1984||104||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"The Moment of Truth"||63||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||The Karate Kid soundtrack|
|"I Can't Hold Back"||13||1||—||93||80||18||19||73||Vital Signs|
|"High on You"||1985||8||8||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"The Search Is Over"||4||—||1||60||—||—||21||48|
|"Burning Heart"||2||11||—||55||5||1||14||8||Rocky IV soundtrack|
|"Is This Love"||1986||9||27||25||—||—||—||—||78||When Seconds Count|
|"How Much Love"||1987||51||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Man Against the World"||86||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"In Good Faith"||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Didn't Know It Was Love"||1988||61||40||—||—||—||—||—||—||Too Hot to Sleep|
|"Across the Miles"||1989||74||—||16||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Eye of the Tiger" (2007 re-entry)||2007||—||—||—||—||47||—||—||—||Eye of the Tiger|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
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