Steve Perry was born on this date in 1949 in California, first generation American and only child of Portuguese parents. Both of them were singers, and the apple fell directly under the tree in this case. Growing up in NoCal, Perry was given a drum kit and eventually became a high school band geek, then rock star wannabe. After a short stint in college, he moved to LA to chase the dream. A member of several forgettable bands, he seemed poised for success with the Alien Project when, the night before the band was to sign a recording contract, their bass player was killed in a car crash. Devastated by the personal loss, the band broke up and Perry moved back home. He was doing carpentry work at the family’s turkey farm when Herb Herbert, agent for a SF prog/ jazz fusion band called Journey, called him.
Journey was an amalgamation of former Santana guitarist and keyboardist, Neal Shon and Greg Rolie, and former members of Frumious Bandersnatch, including drummer Robert Fleischman. Herbert, who had also managed Santana, was pushing the band to become more commercial, following the lackluster sales of the band’s first two albums. Shon had met Perry a couple of years earlier when Steve offered to become their lead singer, but was rejected. But, Herbert had a copy of an Alien Project demo, and liked what he heard from its singer. The story goes that Herbert secretly hired Perry as an anonymous roadie, and while Fleischman was off stage, had Perry go up for a sound check and sing with the band. A not so smooth transition ensued and Herbert had the band he wanted. When they started selling a lot of records and became the world’s biggest arena rockers, the band was pretty happy, too.
Steve Perry is called The Voice, and is regarded as one of the best rock vocalists of all time. He’s a powerful tenor, superbly suited to belt out rock anthems in the largest venues. And between 1977 and 1987, that’s exactly what he did. Journey songs became mainstays on rock and roll radio, and can still be heard every day on classic rock stations. “Don’t Stop Believing” is the No. 1 downloaded song from the 20th century. Other hits, many written or co-written by Perry, include “Lights”, “Open Arms”, “Who’s Cryin’ Now”, "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)", "Faithfully", "Send Her My Love", "After the Fall", “Any Way You Want It”, “Wheel in the Sky” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”. While still with the band, in 1984 Perry released a solo album Street Talk with the hit single “Oh, Sherrie”.
Working on another solo project in 1988, struggling with his mother’s illness and relationship problems, Perry succumbed to the pressures and the fractures that had developed in the band, and announced he was leaving Journey. In 1995, Journey would re-unite for one album, Trial by Fire, but Perry refused the band’s demand that he have total hip replacement operation (that he had been putting off) that he needed to resume touring. He never sang with the band again.
Steve Perry now lives in Del Mar, CA, and is rumored to be working on a new project in his recently completed home recording studio. Time alone will tell. In the meantime, Happy Birthday to The Voice, Steve Perry!