Singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist Jim Peterik was the lead singer and sole writer of the Ides of March's hit "Vehicle," and he co-wrote and co-produced the Grammy-winning double-platinum number one pop hit "Eye of the Tiger," the theme song from Rocky 3, of course, and "Burning Heart" from Rocky 4, performed by Peterik's band Survivor.
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 Epitone 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 expanded to include a horn section and adopted a name based on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the Ides of March. Similar in sound to Blood, Sweat & Tears, the band was 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., the single "Vehicle" went to number two pop on the Billboard charts 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 45, "Sweet Fools," charting at number 91 R&B in the fall of 1975.
Peterik, guitarist Frankie Sullivan, and vocalist David Bicker started Survivor in 1978, which 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 "Somewhere in America" (number 70 pop, early 1980), "Poor Man's Son" (number 33 pop, fall 1981), and "Summer Nights" (number 62 pop, early 1982). Co-written by Peterik and Sullivan, "Eye of the Tiger" b/w "Take You on a Saturday" sold over two million copies, parking at number one pop 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. It was included on the Eye of the Tiger LP, which held the number two pop spot for four weeks in summer 1982.
Other Survivor singles were "American Heartbeat," "The One That Really Matters," "Caught in the Game," "The Moment of Truth" from the movie The Karate Kid, "I Can't Hold Back," "High on You," "The Search Is Over" (number four pop, number one adult contemporary, spring 1985), "First Night," "Burning Heart" (number two pop for two weeks, late 1985), and "Is This Love" (number nine pop, fall 1986). The Rocky 3 soundtrack ("Eye of the Tiger") went gold, going to number 15 pop in summer 1982 and the Rocky 4 soundtrack ("Burning Heart") went platinum, hitting number ten pop in late 1985. In 1986, Peterik left Survivor and reunited with the original members of the Ides of March recording the albums Ideology (1992) and Age Before Beauty (1997).
One of Peterik's later collaborators 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 also writes with Nashville country music writers Craig Wiseman, Bob DiPiero, and Skip Ewing. He also nurtures Chicago-area talent, co-producing Cathy Richardson's first CD and working with 17-year-old Leslie Hunt from St. Charles, Illinois.
Jim Peterik & World Stage appeared on his own World Stage International label, and featured .38 Special's Don Barnes, Cathy Richardson, Night Ranger's Kelly Keagy, and REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin. It features former Styx member Dennis DeYoung, Cheap Trick, Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and 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 Jim Peterik-related releases include Brother to Brother by Johnny Van Zant, Resolution by .38 Special, Jim Jamison/Survivor Collection, Vol. 2, and High and Outside by Steve Goodman. He also co-authored the book Songwriting for Dummies in 2002.
Peterik returned to active recording in 2006, releasing the solo Above the Storm album. Afterward, he teamed occasionally with Kelly Keagy and the band Pride of Lions, then he formed a new outfit called Jim Peterik's Lifeforce who released an eponymous album in 2009 and Forces at Play in 2011. He also continued to play dates with Ides of March, along with solo shows and dates with the Fabulous Armadillos. ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi