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Jim Peterik

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A true rock veteran with a lengthy list of credits and collaborations to his name, Jim Peterik got his first taste of success in 1970 with the brass-led soul-rock hit "Vehicle," which he wrote and sang for his band the Ides of March. After trying his hand in a variety of roles from solo artist to sideman, songwriter, and session player, Peterik formed his next major vehicle in the late '70s. As primary songwriter and keyboardist/guitarist for rock outfit Survivor, he guided the band through a handful of minor hits before striking it big with the Grammy-winning 1982 rock anthem "Eye of the Tiger," which was immortalized as the theme song to boxing blockbuster Rocky III. The group struck gold again a few years later with another Peterik-penned Rocky outing in 1985's "Burning Heart," which appeared on the platinum-selling Rocky IV soundtrack. After leaving Survivor at the end of the '80s, Peterik enjoyed success behind the scenes as a prolific industry songwriter, producer, and instrumentalist throughout the '90s, working with the Doobie Brothers, Brian Wilson, and many others. In addition to occasionally reviving the Ides of March, Peterik spent good portions of the next two decades mentoring younger artists and forming new projects with fellow musicians from the hard rock and pop world like Jim Peterik & World Stage, Pride of Lions, and Lifeforce. While he's widely known as a collaborator, he has also released a handful of solo albums including 2006's Above the Storm and 2016's The Songs. Born in Berwyn, Illinois, Peterik formed the Renegades at age 13 with some fellow classmates at Piper Grade School. Playing a Fourth of July concert, he was approached by singer/guitarist Larry Millas, who asked him to join his band the Shy Lads. Later changing their name to the Shondels, they covered Beatles songs and recorded a single for Epitome Records, "No Two Ways About It" b/w "Like It or Lump It." Peterik was a freshman at the University of Illinois when the Shondels adopted a new name based on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the Ides of March. The band were signed to London Records' imprint Parrot Records and first charted with "You Wouldn't Listen" and "Roller Coaster" in fall 1966. Switching to Warner Bros. and adopting a horn section, the group released the single "Vehicle," which shot to number two on the Billboard Pop chart in the spring of 1970. Their other singles were "Superman" and "L.A. Goodbye." After the Ides of March broke up, Peterik, who had been writing for the band Chase, was considering joining the group when leader Bill Chase and three other bandmembers were killed in an August 1974 plane crash. He recorded some solo sides for Epic Records ("Closest Thing to My Mind," "Last Tango," "Don't Fight the Feeling"). Around the same time, he began working with Chicago soul mainstay Willie Henderson and writing songs for the vocal group Essence. They released eight Epic singles, with one of them, "Sweet Fools," charting at number 91 on the R&B chart in late 1975. In 1978, Peterik, guitarist Frankie Sullivan, and vocalist David Bickler started Survivor, who also included, at various times, drummer Gary Smith, bassist Dennis Johnson, bassist Stephan Ellis, and drummer Marc Droubay. Signed to Scotti Brothers, they first charted with 1980's "Somewhere in America," followed the next year by "Poor Man's Son." Already a seasoned veteran by this point, Peterik's biggest success was just around the corner. Co-written with bandmate Sullivan, the rousing "Eye of the Tiger" sold over two million copies, going double platinum and topping the Billboard Pop chart for six weeks in summer 1982. The song, whose source was the "struggling musician" travails of Peterik and Sullivan, took only an hour to write and was the title track of their third album, Eye of the Tiger. It also served as the theme song for the hit Sylvester Stallone film Rocky III and went on to become a widely used sports anthem over the ensuing years. Peterik helped author several more popular Survivor songs including "American Heartbeat," "The One That Really Matters," and "Caught in the Game." In 1985, the band scored their second major Rocky-related hit with "Burning Heart," which Peterik and Sullivan wrote for the Rocky IV soundtrack. In 1988, Peterik left Survivor and reunited with the original members of the Ides of March, recording the albums Ideology (1992) and Age Before Beauty (1997). During much of the 1990s, he focused on producing and writing songs for other artists including Cheap Trick and the Doobie Brothers. One of Peterik's later collaborations was with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. He co-wrote "Dream Angel" and the title track of Wilson's 1998 album, Imagination, and played in his touring band and on Wilson's VH1/PBS special. Peterik has also written with Nashville country music writers Craig Wiseman, Bob DiPiero, and Skip Ewing, and nurtured Chicago-area talent, co-producing Cathy Richardson's first CD and working with Leslie Hunt from St. Charles, Illinois. In 2000, he launched a new collaborative venture with the album Jim Peterik & World Stage. Released on his own World Stage International label, it featured a number of guests and musical friends including .38 Special's Don Barnes, Night Ranger's Kelly Keagy, REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin, Styx's Dennis DeYoung, and Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd. It also included remakes of "Eye of the Tiger" with Kevin Max of DC Talk and "Vehicle" with Buddy Guy and the Ides of March horn section. Other Peterik-related releases of that era include Brother to Brother by Johnny Van Zant, Resolution by .38 Special, Jimi Jamison/Survivor Collection, Vol. 2, and High and Outside by Steve Goodman. He also co-authored the book Songwriting for Dummies in 2002. Peterik remained active throughout the decade, either fronting or collaborating on a variety of projects. He formed the band Pride of Lions, who issued several albums during the early-2000s, and in 2006 he released his second proper solo album, Above the Storm. He joined up with Night Ranger's Kelly Keagy for a couple of releases and then formed a new outfit called Jim Peterik's Lifeforce, who issued an eponymous album in 2009 and Forces at Play in 2011. He even found time to help out former Survivor bandmate Jimi Jamison on a pair of releases. While maintaining live dates with Ides of March and the Fabulous Armadillos, Peterik continued playing his own dates in support of his third solo album, 2016's The Songs. Showing no signs of slowing down, he returned the next year with another Pride of Lions release, Fearless, followed in 2019 by another World Stage album, Winds of Change.
© Ed Hogan /TiVo
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