Survivor (band)

Survivor (band)
Origin Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres AOR, hard rock, pop rock
Years active 1978–1989
Labels Scotti Brothers, PolyGram, Frontiers
Associated acts The Ides of March, Cobra, Target, Pride of Lions, McAuley Schenker Group
Website Official website
Robin McAuley
Frankie Sullivan
Michael Young
Billy Ozzello
Marc Droubay
Past members
Jim Peterik
Dave Bickler
Gary Smith
Dennis Keith Johnson
Stephan Ellis
Jimi Jamison
Barry Dunaway
Randy Riley
Klem Hayes
Bill Syniar
Kyle Woodring
Chris Grove
Gordon Patriarca

Survivor is an American rock band formed in Chicago in 1978. The band achieved its greatest success in the 1980s with its AOR sound, which garnered 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 motion picture Rocky III (US #1 for 6 weeks). Singles like "Burning Heart" (US #2), "The Search Is Over" (US #4), "High on You" (US #8) and "I Can't Hold Back" (US #13) continued to chart in the mid-1980s.

The band tweaked its musical direction in 1988 with the release of the slightly heavier Too Hot to Sleep, but the album barely reached the Billboard 200 in the United States. Because of this, the band split. Singer Jimi Jamison later toured as 'Survivor' in the mid-1990s, to the chagrin of the rest of the band. Jamison re-united with the band's other members in 2000 and the band released Reach in 2006, but Jamison left the band after its release and was replaced by Robin McAuley. The band has continued to tour with McAuley into 2010.


Early years

Founding Survivor members Jim Peterik, Gary Smith and Dennis Keith Johnson initially came together in 1977 as The Jim Peterik Band after Peterik had released an album, Don't Fight the Feeling, on Epic Records the previous year. Then in 1978, at the urging of tour manager Rick Weigand, Peterik hooked up with Frankie Sullivan, brought in singer Dave Bickler and Survivor was born. Peterik was previously the lead vocalist–guitarist for the band The Ides of March.[1] After playing in small clubs for several years, Survivor was signed by Atlantic Records A&R executive John Kalodner.[2] The group's first album, the self-titled Survivor, was released on the Atlantic subsidiary Scotti Bros. in early 1980, but the album produced no Top 40 singles, and did not achieve the level of success that the band had hoped for.

In 1981 Johnson and Smith had schedule conflicts with their other projects, so they were replaced by Stephan Ellis and Marc Droubay in time for the band's follow-up album, Premonition. It charted higher, achieving popularity with American audiences and giving 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."

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 their single "Poor Man's Son" and wanted a song similar to it.[3] The band agreed to write him a song and soon released "Eye of the Tiger". The new song featured a faster tempo while still incorporating the stylish, nearly identical power chords. It had an enormous impact on the Billboard charts, peaking at #1 and remaining there for a total of six weeks. It also topped the British charts. It was in the Top 40 for a total of 18 weeks and was Australia's #1 single for four weeks.[4] The song won the band a Grammy Award, was voted "Best New Song" by the People's Choice Awards, and also received an Academy Award nomination.[4] The album of the same title, Eye of the Tiger, was released by the band later in 1982 and contained another Top 40 hit in the United States, "American Heartbeat" (#17 US). The album went on to chart at #2 in the United States.

In 1983 Survivor tried to duplicate the success of Eye Of The Tiger with their next release Caught in the Game. The album turned out to be a commercial disappointment, stalling at #82 on the Billboard 200 in the United States. The album's only single, the title track, peaked at #77. The band suffered another setback in late 1983 when lead singer Dave Bickler suffered voice problems and was forced to leave. In early 1984 he was replaced by Jimi Jamison of the bands Target and Cobra.

In 1984 singer–comedian "Weird Al" Yankovic wrote and recorded a parody of "Eye of the Tiger" called: "Theme from Rocky XIII". It appears in his album "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D, as well as in Yankovic's compilation, The Food Album (where it was renamed "Theme from Rocky XIII (The Rye or the Kaiser)").

The hit years

After recording "The Moment of Truth" (#63 US), the theme song of the box office smash hit The Karate Kid (1984), the band recorded its first album with Jamison. Vital Signs gave the band a massive comeback, peaking at #16 on the Billboard Album Chart with the hits "I Can't Hold Back" (#13 U.S.), "High on You" (#8 U.S.), and "The Search Is Over" (#4 U.S.). In late 1985, the band had another hit with "Burning Heart", a song from the Rocky IV soundtrack, which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1986. When Seconds Count was released in October 1986 and included the hit "Is This Love" (#9 U.S.). On the Billboard Album Chart the album peaked at #49 but still managed to sell over 500,000 copies and reached certified Gold status.

During pre-production of their seventh album, Too Hot to Sleep (1988), Ellis and Droubay were replaced by studio session vets Mickey Curry (drums) and Bill Syniar (bass). Sullivan produced the effort with Frank Fillipetti. 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 dent on the charts (#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.

1989–2000: work on greatest hits album

After the disappointing sales of Too Hot to Sleep, Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan decided to put the band on hiatus indefinitely. Jamison decided to continue touring and playing Survivor songs with local musicians. He subsequently recorded a solo album in 1991. Jamison continued to tour, now billing his band as 'Survivor' or 'Jimi Jamison's Survivor'. After some success touring overseas in 1992, 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–early 1993, Survivor was tapped to do 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. After broken contract talks, Jamison quit and went back on the road again as 'Jimi Jamison's Survivor'.

In spring 1993 Peterik and Sullivan re-teamed with original lead singer Dave Bickler, released a new 'Greatest Hits' album with two new songs ("Hungry Years" co-written by Bickler and "You Know Who You Are") and embarked on a world tour with Bill Syniar and Kyle Woodring returning on bass and drums. Klem Hayes took over on bass later in 1993 after Syniar departed. As Jamison was also touring under the Survivor banner, Peterik and Sullivan filed a lawsuit against their former colleague for using the name.

From 1993 to 1996 the trio (Peterik, Sullivan, and Bickler) recorded about 20 demos for a new album (the songs can be heard on the Fire Makes Steel bootleg) with session musicians. They failed to secure a record deal due to the ongoing litigation and trademark issues. In 1994 Hayes departed and the bass chair was filled, first by Randy Riley (1994–1995), then by Billy Ozzello (1995–1996).

When the band tried to move in a blues direction, Peterik decided to leave the band, playing his last show with Survivor on July 3, 1996 at 'The Eye in the Sky' fest in Lisle, Illinois. 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 the fall of 1996 bassist Stephan Ellis and drummer Marc Droubay rejoined Survivor but Ellis quit 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 Frankie Sullivan solo album cut, "Lies".

In 1999 Jimi Jamison released the album Empires under the name "Jimi Jamison's Survivor" (later re-released under his own name). In late September 1999 Sullivan won ownership of the name "Survivor", thereby ending the ongoing trademark battle.

2000–2006: Release of a new album

In early 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 Sylvester Stallone film Driven. However, it did not make the cut. Later that year, the band threatened to sue CBS for using the name "Survivor" as the title of their hit reality show Survivor.

In 2003 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 did his day-to-day tasks. This commercial has gained a number of fans and was nominated for an Emmy Award.[5] Meanwhile, original Survivor vocalist David Bickler began collaborating on the successful Bud Light Real Men of Genius radio ads in the late 1990s and 2000s. The "Real Men of Genius" Bud Light ads are widely popular and include TV spots aired on 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.

Barry Dunaway took over bass chores for the band on the road in 2005. But by early 2006 Billy Ozzello was back again. In April 2006 Survivor released a new album called Reach. Consisting of mostly new songs, it also includes some re-recordings from the "Fire Makes Steel" sessions. Two of the album's songs, "Reach" and "Fire Makes Steel", had been considered for inclusion in the 2006 Rocky sequel Rocky Balboa but were not included, nor did they appear on the 2006 album Rocky Balboa: The Best Of Rocky.

Six of the album's twelve songs were written and recorded in the 1990s with Dave Bickler on lead vocals (except "Never The Less" and "Talkin' Bout Love"). On July 14, 2006 it was announced that Jamison was leaving the band and that Robin McAuley would replace him on lead vocals.


According to Frankie Sullivan, and revealed at on March 5, 2010, an album of new original music is to be released around April. The CD will be titled "Re-Entry", which is also one of the tracks. An official announcement is expected soon. As of 2010, the lineup was a mix of old and new members: Robin McAuley (vocals), original member/songwriter Frankie Sullivan (guitar/vocals), longtime members Marc Droubay (drums) and Billy Ozzello (bass) and newcomer Mitchell Sigman (keyboards/guitar).

The band continues to play regularly in North America, Europe and Asia. They performed "Eye Of The Tiger" on ABC's Dancing with the Stars on April 3, 2007. And on October 10, 2008, "Eye" was used to introduce Republican Vice Presidential candidate and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin at a rally in west-central Ohio.[citation needed] An appearance by them in Rochester, MN drew over 17,000 people on July 12, 2009.

Frankie Sullivan produced the second album of the critically acclaimed[who?] band Mecca led by singer–songwriter Joe Vana. Coincidentally, he replaced Jim Peterik who produced the first Mecca album. The album is due out in the second half of 2010 on Frontiers Records.

Band members

Reach (Survivor album) Too Hot to Sleep When Seconds Count Vital Signs (Survivor album) Caught in the Game Eye of the Tiger (album) Premonition (Survivor album) Survivor (Survivor album) Kyle Woodring Mickey Curry Marc Droubay Gary Smith Barry Dunaway Randy Riley Billy Ozzello Bill Syniar Stephan Ellis Dennis Keith Johnson Mitchell Sigman Michael Young Chris Grove Jim Peterik Frankie Sullivan Robin McAuley Jimi Jamison Dave Bickler



Year Album US Billboard 200
1979 Survivor 169
1981 Premonition 82
1982 Eye of the Tiger 2
1983 Caught in the Game 82
1984 Vital Signs 16
1985 Live In Tokyo
1986 When Seconds Count 49
1988 Too Hot to Sleep 187
2006 Reach


Year Album
1989 Greatest Hits (original 10-track version)
1993 Greatest Hits
1998 Prime Cuts: The Classic Tracks
2000 Survivor Special Selection
2001 Fire In Your Eyes: Greatest Hits
2004 Ultimate Survivor
2004 Extended Versions: The Encore Collection (live)
2006 The Best Of Survivor
2009 Playlist: The Very Best Of Survivor


Year Song US Hot 100 US MSR US A.C. UK Singles Chart[6] Album
1980 "Somewhere in America" 70 Survivor
"Rebel Girl" 103 Non-album single
1981 "Poor Man's Son" 33 Premonition
1982 "Summer Nights" 62
1982 "Eye of the Tiger" 1 1 27 1 Eye of the Tiger/Rocky III soundtrack
"Ever Since the World Began" Eye of the Tiger
"American Heartbeat" 17
"The One That Really Matters" 74
1983 "Caught in the Game" 77 16 Caught in the Game
1984 "I Never Stopped Loving You" 104
"The Moment of Truth" 63 Karate Kid soundtrack
"I Can't Hold Back" 13 1 Vital Signs
1985 "High on You" 8 8
"The Search Is Over" 4 1
"First Night" 53
"Burning Heart" 2 11 5 Rocky IV soundtrack
1986 "Is This Love" 9 27 25 When Seconds Count
1987 "How Much Love" 51
"Man Against The World" 86
1988 "Didn't Know it Was Love" 61 40 Too Hot to Sleep
1989 "Across the Miles" 74 16
2007 "Eye of the Tiger" (2007 re-entry) 47 Eye of the Tiger/Rocky III soundtrack

See also


  1. ^ "Jim Peterik - Biography". 
  2. ^ (2010) Album notes for Survivor by Survivor [Inset]. UK: Rock Candy Records (CANDY081).
  3. ^ "Survivor profile". Rhapsody. 
  4. ^ a b Survivor Bio at Thoughtworthy
  5. ^ "DDB Wins Commercial Emmy". 2005-09-12. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 542. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links

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