Photo: Staffan Vilcans, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Our Top 10 Survivor Songs takes us back to a Chicago rock band whose brand of melodic hard rock made them one of rock music lovers’ favorites. The Survivor Rock band was initially founded in 1978 by its famous lead singer and keyboardist/guitarist Jim Peterik, and his fellow counterpart Frankie Sullivan. The two also recruited Dave Bickler, a lead singer, with whom they recorded a self-titled debut album. In the album, studio musicians Gary Smith and Dennis Johnson were also featured in drums and bass respectively. However, their places would later be taken by Marc Droubay and Stephen Ellis for permanent membership.
Survivor’s breakthrough in the music industry came knocking after Sylvester Stallone commissioned the rock band to write the soundtrack to Rocky III. The result was an instant hit, Eye of a Tiger which is to date famed for its opening melodies and rhythmic chorus. Following its popularity, the hit song spent six weeks on the Billboards chart as the top song. The song also pushed the sales of the subject album to over a million sales. The band later come back strong with their second greatest hit Burning Heart in 1986. However, trouble came knocking when Peterik, Sullivan, and Jamison (the artist who replaced Bickler after he had quit due to medical issues in 1983) were the only ones left, with the band disbanded in 1989.
Survivor redefined itself in 1997 with Sullivan, Ellis, Droubay, and Bickler getting back to the studio while Jamison came back in 2000. What followed was a series of music releases as a couple of redefinitions. However, much of what the band did in the 2010s didn’t appear till the death of Jamison due to a heart attack in 2014.
Their music just keeps on surviving. The tremendous Cobra Kai series on Netflix featured the song ‘Burning Heart’ in an episode of its fourth season. With their movie music safely entrenched in popular culture lore, and plenty of other hits, the band Survivor can rest easy knowing they made a solid contribution to the history of rock.
They are a band with a distinctive sound of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums oriented rock. And, interestingly, depending on you ask, people will tell you there is or is not a noticeable difference between the two lead singers, Bickler and Jamison.
For me personally, I don’t think there is a big difference, and for that reason, I find their sound to be pretty much consistent. Survivor songs are recognizable, and with enough of them out there, and their status from the movie theme songs, they have attained a well-deserved reverence from us aficionados.
Our Top 10 Survivor Songs are inspired by the rock band’s most sought-after songs which we believe will add some flavor to your playlist.
# 10 – Tie – Ever Since the World Began / The Moment of Truth
Starting off this Survivor Songs list we have a tie between the power ballad from the album Eye of the Tiger released in 1982 and the song “The Moment Of Truth.” The song “Ever Since The World Began,” was composed by Sullivan and Peterik. The poetic hit song features emotional vocals by Dave Bickler to bring out a truly amazing song. In an interview, guitarist Sullivan states that the motivation behind the song was a close family member who was succumbed to death as a result of an illness. The song is known for its huge impact on anyone suffering emotionally while bringing some understanding of the world to some. It also offers hope to many that destiny will do its unsuspected magic having it being part of our life plan. For Jim Peterik, the song holds some dear place in his heart having him sing it to his father before his death, which came right before the release of the Eye of the Tiger album.
The video that accompanies ‘The Moment of Truth’ is nostalgic, of course, especially as we witness The Karate Kid paving the way for Cobra Kai after more than 35 years. The up tempo song with some zippy synths is a decent attempt to capture a moment in time. It was written well enough and sung with passion by the late Jimi Jamison to capture the story telling of the movie.
# 9 – Didn’t Know It was Love
Released in 1988 Too Hot to Sleep album, this song might be less known by many but it’s greatest undebatable. From the amazing guitar skills shown by the band through the hard rock beats to Jim Peterik’s incredible vocals, the song has so much to offer for rock lovers. The lyrics bring out how the persona threw away love while he had it all at hand. The song reached a top position of number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 hence making it one of the best jams in Survivor’s Too Hot to Sleep album.
# 8 – Poor Man’s Son
There is deep history with the Poor Man’s Son hit written by Survivor’s Jim Peterik. Notably, this song was Survivor’s first Top 40 hit song having it draw the attention of Sylvester Stallone, thanks to its energy, and raw street vibe as he put it. While Jim Peterik is known to draw lyrics from personal experiences, Jim admitted to having been inspired by the title alone having everything else build upon these words.
# 7 – American Heartbeat
The other hit off their ‘Eye of the Tiger’ album released in 1982 was this song. Coming up seventh is a superb classic rock jam written by Frank Sullivan and Jim Peterik, American Heartbeat. For any classic rock lover who lived in the 80s, they can attest to the thrill this jam presented to many. Thanks to its patriotic vibe that many might love the song to date, but there is more to this. Talk of the great tune and instrumentals alongside the magnificent vocals by Dave Bickler as the lead artist in the song. While the song might have capitalized on the big success of the Eye of the Tiger album, this jam’s clear production made it win its way to the Top 20 of the US charts.
Bickler sings as the keyboard heartbeat keeps a solid, dark Miami Vice type beat throughout. The synths work out well as the journey of the song continues with some solid drumming.
# 6 – Is This Love
Released in October 1986, Is This Love was the first single from the sixth album by Survivor When Seconds Count. Written from personal experience by Jim Peterik where he asked himself what love was. This jam by Survivor, not only peaked on the Hot 100 in the following year but also paved way for Whitesnake’s similar song which took the charts by storm. Nevertheless, Survivor’s version still rocks to date even when Jim is gone and forgotten by some.
# 5 – Tie The Search is Over / Somewhere in America
Ushering us to the top five songs is another tie. First off by Survivor is the band’s power ballad The Search is Over. Featured in the Vital Signs album, the song was the band’s third single as well as the second top 10 hit from their 1984 Vital Signs album. Probably, Jim’s vocals and range, and the exhilarating message of a man who has found love have something to do with why the jam is quite a massive hit.
The very first song off the band’s first album, Survivor, from 1979, is a rollicking rock song. This first musical endeavor of theirs is proof of their skills and that there would be a lot more coming from this band. ‘Somewhere in America’ is more than five minutes long, and feels just right. It is a hard-edged dose of rock showing off the talent of the band and Bickler on lead vocals.
# 4 – High on You
We can barely seem to get enough of Survivor’s 1984 Vital Signs album with yet another song from the album making it in the top 10 songs by the band. Notably, the song reawakens the great memories of the 80s. Great instrumentals and vocals in the song take the day probably explaining why it was quite popular in the days. Its catchy tune still hooks a lot of people who travel back in the 80s for some great classic rock jams!
The band knew how to write a hit. They knew the blueprint and how to project the trajectory of the song. And, they were able to match the lyrics to the pace of the song. “Now, I’m higher than a kite…I know I’m getting hooked on your love” rings out of Jamison’s voice like magic. The intensity of the band coming together rocks and indicates a true love for this particular species of a woman. This song is from 1984’s Vital Signs album.
# 3 – Burning Heart
At number three on our Top 10 Survivor songs is the incredible song Burning Heart. The jam ushers in the second soundtrack by Survivor having it featured in the 1985 film Rocky IV. With Jimi Jackson’s amazing vocals and superb instrumentals, the band saw the song peak at number two on the Billboard’s Hot 100 for two weeks. Notably, this is the biggest hit song that the Survivor band had released with Jimi as the lead vocalist. Not only did the song trend in the US but also globally, thanks to its inspiration from the Cold War as depicted by the lyrics.
The guitars, lead and rhythm, get this song off to its start, then the drums and Jamison take over. With its lyrics, it’s an obvious song to place in a movie with competition at its core. It’s no wonder Stallone and Cobra Kai producers can’t resist it.
# 2 – I Can’t Hold Back
Coming in strong at number two is probably Vital Signs album’s best single by Survivor. Written at a time where their relationship was quite strained, Jim and Sullivan put their differences aside having them produce superb guitar riffs and great melodies and lyrics for the song. With this rocking jam, Jamison proved to be a worthwhile lead artist and the photogenic face of the Survivor band. Thanks to his unusual arrangement on the track that the song remained interesting having it achieve significant airplay on the TV.
# 1- Eye of the Tiger
Closing into our list of Top 10 Survivor Songs, we turn to the monumental, thrilling, and most exciting jam by this awesome rock band. Little about the Survivor band can be said without tagging along with their breakthrough song Eye of the Tiger whose name they used for its album too. The song is featured as the soundtrack for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky III movie, having both Sullivan and Jim write it and stamp their band’s name in the history of rock music. Nervous guitar tics, thundering power chords, and a rising drone all make the intro of the song quite catchy. In this song, you can’t help but notice how Dave Bickler wails a deep message with high intensity and superb vocals. Definitely, Eye of the Tiger is the epitome of the Survivor band’s journey in rock music!
Top 10 Survivor Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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