Survivor was founded by keyboard player and already successful songwriter Jim Peterik (composer of the Ides of March's "Vehicle") and guitarist Frankie Sullivan in Chicago in 1977. The addition of lead vocalist Dave Bickler put the band on the road to the arena rock sound fans would soon embrace, but a couple of album releases came and went before anyone paid much attention. That all changed when Sylvester Stallone came calling for a theme song to his third Rocky film.
Risin' Up, Straight to the Top:
Survivor's fortunes achieved lift-off when the band's power rock classic "Eye of the Tiger" appeared prominently in 1982's hit film Rocky III. From there, the single climbed the pop charts, peaking at No. 1 for an impressive seven weeks. Sporting one of the decade's best power chord riffs and an infectiously exploding chorus, the tune has since gone on to legendary status, an emblem and landmark not only of its era but of irony-free triumphant bombast.
Personnel Changes, Still More Hits:
In 1983 Bickler left the band following a minor health problem, which opened the door for new singer Jimi Jamison, a vocalist with powerful pipes and an epic style not too different from Bickler's. The group reached its commercial zenith with the 1984 release Vital Signs, which featured three Top 10 hits in the lovely "I Can't Hold Back," the fine mid-tempo rocker "High on You," and a tender soft rock power ballad, "The Search Is Over."
Overshadowed But Not Defeated:
The band enjoyed a few minor hits over the course of two more studio releases, but Survivor's popularity was clearly on the wane with the advent of a flashier version of mainstream rock, hair metal. Still, true to its fist-clenching name, the band never completely faded away, releasing some compilation CDs in the '90s and reforming in 1997 with Bickler for a tour. Currently the band retains only founding member Sullivan from its '80s peak lineup, with Robin McAuley having replaced a briefly returning Jamison in 2006. Time will tell if the future promises more music from this '80s mainstay.
Serendipitous Fun Facts:
The band has direct ties to two recent advertising campaigns:
- Bickler lends his pipes to the Bud Light Real Men of Genius advertising campaign, whose jingles celebrate goofy elements of society and culture and employ the singer to belt out impassioned vocals about such figures as Hawaiian shirt inventors.
- In 2004, a Starbuck's TV ad appeared in which Jamison and members of the band serenade a corporate up-and-comer on his way to work with a hilariously rewritten version of "Eye of the Tiger."