Survivor

  • Hard rock band formed in 1978 from Chicago Illinois. In the early 80s, the bandmembers were Dave Bickler (lead vocals), Frankie Sullivan (lead guitar, backing vocals, songwriting), Stephan Ellis (bass guitar, backing vocals), Jim Peterik (keyboards, rhythm guitar, backing vocals, songwriting) and Marc Droubay (drums). Jimi Jamison replaced Bickler on vocals in 1984 for several of their later big hits.
  • Peterik played in other bands, including The Ides of March and The Jim Peterik Band. An album released by his namesake band in 1976 referred to Peterik as “a survivor.” Indeed he was – he was supposed to perform as a guest musician for another band in 1974, but missed the gig, and the plane that the band was on crashed, killing most of the members of that band. In 1978, Peterik’s band split up, and he considered returning to producing jingles locally in Chicago. Instead, his road manager convinced him to meet with Sullivan, and within an hour, Survivor was born. Gary Smith (drums) and Dennis Johnson (bass) were recruited – they knew Peterik through the band that was in the plane crash. Finally, Bickler was brought in for vocals – Bickler had worked with Peterik on jingles in earlier years. The band played their first concert at a high school in 1978.
  • They performed at small clubs around Chicago, and a record label executive discovered them. They were signed to the label, and their debut album, the self-titled Survivor, was released in 1980. It barely charted, with the only single – Somewhere In America – reaching #70 on the Hot 100 chart. Smith and Johnson left the band due to conflicts with other projects. They were replaced with Droubay and Ellis.
  • Survivor’s second album, Premonition, was released in 1981. It was more successful, with the single Poor Man’s Son peaking at #33 on the Hot 100. The following year, they were contacted by Sylvester Stallone. Stallone liked Poor Man’s Son and he asked the band to provide a similar song for Stallone’s next film. They agreed, and they produced the song Eye of the Tiger for the film Rocky III. The song was a mega-hit, topping the Hot 100 for six weeks, and it was #1 in eight International markets. It won a Grammy award for Best Rock Performance by a Group with Vocal. The song was included in the group’s next album, also titled Eye of the Tiger. The album reached #2 on the Billboard album chart and was certified platinum. One other single from the album reached the Top 40 – American Heartbeat peaked at #17.
  • They were unable to maintain their success – 1983’s Caught In the Game album was a flop. The record label failed to promote it, and the band’s live performances were stymied when lead singer Bickler had throat surgery to remove polyps from his vocal cords. Bickler attempted to tour just two weeks after surgery, but he needed more time to rest. Peterik and Sullivan were anxious to move on, and Bickler was dropped and replaced by Jimi Jamison.
  • Their first album with Jamison was 1984’s Vital Signs, and it was a success, certified platinum. Hits from the album included I Can’t Hold Back (peaking at #13 on the Hot 100), High On You (#8) and The Search Is Over (#4 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart). The following year, Stallone called on them again for the Rocky IV soundtrack – the single Burning Heart peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 in 1986.
  • Albums released in 1986 and 1988 were less successful. Only one hit single came from these albums – Is This Love peaked at #9 on the Hot 100. There were lineup changes made between the two albums, and by the end of 1988, the group was on hiatus. Five years later, Peterik and Sullivan began to regroup. Jamison had been touring as “Jimi Jamison’s Survivor.” Jamison initially agreed to rejoin Peterik and Sullivan, but when a contract could not be reached, he resumed his solo career. Instead, they tapped Bickler to return as vocalist and they released a Greatest Hits compilation with two new songs.
  • They toured from 1993 to 1996, and then Peterik abruptly left the group, rejoining a reformed The Ides of March. Bickler and Sullivan were the only original members left. Various lineup changes occurred over the following years. In 2000, Bickler was fired and Jamison returned. An album was released in 2006. Soon after, Jamison left again, then rejoined again in 2011. Bickler rejoined in 2013, sharing lead vocal duties with Jamison until Jamison died in 2014 of a heart attack. Bickler left (again) in 2016, and the Survivor that performs today only has Sullivan as an original member.
  • Eye of the Tiger was a rock anthem of the 80s, and a perfect song for the Rocky franchise. The video for the song is “80s awful,” while Rocky III was so cool (Rocky vs Mr. T, and good guy Apollo Creed) – so here’s the song performed with clips from the movie.

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