Jimi Jamison … A "Survivor" who will be missed

  • Jimi Jamison, former lead singer of Survivor, died Sept. 1 after suffering a heart attack.

    Jimi Jamison, former lead singer of Survivor, died Sept. 1 after suffering a heart attack.

Posted9/22/2014 10:16 AM

Rock lost another soldier earlier this month with the passing of Survivor frontman Jimi Jamison. A massive heart attack took the spry 63 year old who was actively touring with Survivor, the pop-rock band of the eighties best known for the platinum anthem and theme from Rocky II "Eye Of The Tiger." Jamison sang lead on subsequent megaselling hits including "Is This Love," "Burning Heart "(theme from Rocky IV), "The Search Is Over" and "High On You."

I first met Jimi back in the early nineties when I was producing concerts at The Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero. It was a Harley-owners event for about 3,000 bikers right in the middle of the horse track. I can remember his friendly demeanor like it was yesterday. He was always smiling, it seemed like he was always joking. And if you talk to any of his friends, the will tell you, we was.


That day, during sound check, he told me the last "biker" show he performed at tuned into a "mud-wrestling slash wet tee shirt contest free for all." I told him that was sorry I missed all the action and the best I would witness that day would be an overzealous horse or two.

So the show went on and the craziness ensued. The crowd was partying hard, and how could they not? The songs of Jamison and Survivor are some of the most rockin' cruisin' songs ever to be blasted from a radio going down a highway. I was standing on the side of the stage while Jimi was doing his thing, giving his all to the audience that was singing louder than he was.

All of sudden, three young ladies in black leather vests jumped up on the stage, actually, it was more like they were hoisted up to the singer. In one seemingly choreographed motion, the vests came off, leaving nothing but a whole lot of Mother Nature moving to the music. Not knowing where to look, he turned his head and his eyes met mine. I pointed to him and pointed to them, as if to say, "Your welcome!"

My next encounter with the band came as somewhat of a surprise when I attended a "Survivor" day at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in his native city of Memphis, Tennessee. There was a big bash celebrating the vast strides made toward finding cures for catastrophic diseases affecting children. He actually saw me first and gave me a huge hello. He went on to tell me how St. Jude was his favorite charity and he would always do whatever he could for the kids.

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I would continue to work with him over the next few years, mostly booking him at festivals. He truly loved the fans and really enjoyed speaking with them. He never said no to an autograph or photo request, and always gave the fans the respect that they gave to him in abundance. My last encounter with him was a fundraiser we did at our Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, Illinois. It was a co-bill with former Journey member Kevin Chalfant. It was a vocally triumphant evening with nothing but hit after hit after hit. After the show was as much fun as the show itself as he joked and hung out at the theater.

What a warm guy with tremendous talent. He had the rocker look, the rocker voice, but not the hard rocker attitude. Although it is ironic how the lead of a band named "Survivor" could be taken at such a young age, but it will be his music, his generosity and infectious smile that will be the legacy that will remain for generations to come.

• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email ron@oshows.com.