Jimmy Wayne “Jimi” Jamison, the lead singer of the 1980s arena rock band Survivor, died on Aug. 31 of a heart attack. He was 63.
The band’s official Facebook page shared the news of Jamison’s death on Monday: “The entire Survivor family is very shocked and saddened by the passing of our brother Jimi Jamison. Our thoughts, love and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Jamison was just 13 years old when he first performed in public. Even at such a young age, he’d found his calling.
Jamison spent the 1970s and early 1980s as the frontman for the hard rock bands Target and Cobra. He also provided back-up vocals for numerous recording artists, including ZZ Top and Joe Walsh.
When vocal problems caused Survivor lead singer Dave Bickler to leave the band, numerous people tried out for the gig. But it was Jamison who landed the coveted job of performing alongside guitarist Frankie Sullivan, keyboardist Jim Peterik, bassist Stephan Ellis and drummer Marc Droubay.
Although Jamison originally joined Survivor in 1983, the charismatic performer would leave and return many times over the next few decades. However, when there was harmony between the bandmates, the music shined.
Jamison’s first Survivor release was “The Moment of Truth,” a song that didn’t fare well on the radio but became the theme for the hit movie ‘The Karate Kid.” His debut album with the band was much more successful; “Vital Signs” (1984) went platinum and spun off several hits, including the rock ballads “I Can’t Hold Back,” “High On You” and “The Search Is Over.”
“I’m stronger on ballads,” Jamison told The Los Angeles Times in 1985. “I like to sing them more than anything else but I didn’t get much of a chance before. I wanted to sing more ballads. Being in this group is just right for me.”
Survivor’s biggest hit, “Eye of the Tiger” — which sold over 2.5 million copies, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and became an athletic anthem as part of the soundtrack for “Rocky III” — was released two years before Jamison joined the band. During the next 30 years, he would perform the soaring tune countless times in concert, much to the joy of fans. He also recorded the vocals for “Burning Heart,” a song that appeared on the “Rocky IV” soundtrack.
After Survivor disbanded in 1989, Jamison decided to focus on a solo career. He released two albums, “When Love Comes Down” (1991) and “Empires” (1999), and cowrote and sang “I’m Always Here,” which became the theme for the the TV show “Baywatch.”
Survivor reunited in 1993, with former lead singer Dave Bickler back on the mic. But Jamison reunited with the band in 2000, remained for six years, left for five and then returned again in 2011. He performed his last Survivor show on Saturday night in Morgan Hill, Calif., The Arizona Republic reported.
Singer/songwriter Richard Marx took to Twitter to remember Jamison.
“So sad to hear of Jimi Jamison’s sudden passing,” Marx wrote. “Just saw him last December at a benefit. He was a kind and talented man.”
Guitarist Paul Sidoti also praised Jamison’s singing talents.
“RIP Jimi Jamison.. Your incredible vocal talents fronting Survivor were a big part of my childhood.. May you sing with the angels,” Sidoti said.
In a statement released to the public, Jamison’s family described him as friendly and caring.
“Jimi was a friend to everyone he met. He was a loving father and grandfather and was always a person who valued people more than anything else,” the family stated.
Photo by James L. Dickerson. Used with permission.
–Originally published in The Huffington Post.