Vocally, Perry (similar to Freddie Mercury) can be classified, particularly in his early career, as a Countertenor, or a man who sings in the highest possible vocal register, including what is considered mezzo soprano to soprano when sung by women.
The family moved to Lemoore, California during Perry's teen years. While in Lemoore, the young, long-haired singer continued to pursue his interest in music. He attended high school there, drumming in the marching band as well as in extracurricular bands. He attended College of the Sequoias, in Visalia, California for a short time after graduation, where he took first tenor in the choir there. Perry's mother encouraged his musical growth during this time.
Perry moved to Banta, California, a small farming town outside of Tracy, California, where he fronted the band Alien Project in his mid-twenties. He nearly gave up music when the bassist of that band, Richard Michaels, was killed in a tragic automobile accident. Filled with grief, Perry returned to Lemoore and decided not to continue his singing career, instead following in his stepfather's trade of construction, once working on a turkey farm. But at the urging of his mother, Perry answered a call from Walter "Herbie" Herbert, manager of the struggling San Francisco-based band, Journey.
Perry brought a completely new pop sound to the band's music, despite grumblings from his new bandmates and fans of Journey's former progressive rock sound. He made his public debut on October 28, 1977 in San Francisco, and received a mixed reception. Perry determinedly proved the critics wrong, and won over new audiences on his first album with the group, Infinity, which included a song of his own composition called "Lights." The band's style had changed dramatically, but as Journey began to garner radio airplay and media buzz over Infinity, Perry's arrival was accepted.
He provided lead vocals on nine of Journey's albums: Infinity (1978), Evolution (1979), Departure (1980), Dream After Dream (1980, a Japanese movie soundtrack), Captured (1980, a live album), Escape (1981, which went to #1 on the Billboard charts), Frontiers (1983), Raised on Radio (1986), and Trial By Fire (1996). The single "Open Arms," from Escape, was their biggest hit single, residing for six weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Perry had become the unmistakable voice of Journey throughout his time with the band. His tenor style of singing was very common with singers in the 80's such as Don Dokken, Vince Neil, Joe Elliot, Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio and many more . His trademark tuxedo tails also made him stand out amongst other performers.
During his tenure with Journey, Perry established himself in the music industry, singing backing vocals on several Sammy Hagar songs, including the 1980 track "Run For Your Life," and duetting with Kenny Loggins on the 1982 #17 hit single "Don't Fight It." Perry also worked with other musicians such as Sheena Easton, Clannad and Jon Bon Jovi during the height of his career.
In 1984, following the release of Frontiers and the tour supporting this effort, Perry released his first solo album, entitled Street Talk, named after the original name of Perry's earlier band Alien Project. The record was a platinum success and scored hit singles with "Oh Sherrie," written for his then-girlfriend Sherrie Swafford, and "Foolish Heart." The music video for "Oh Sherrie" saw heavy rotation on MTV. "She's Mine" and "Strung Out" were also released as singles from this project, which featured former Alien Project drummer Craig Krampf on a few tracks, guitarist Michael Landau, and future American Idol judge Randy Jackson, among others.
In 1985, Perry had a featured vocal in the famed USA for Africa all-star benefit song "We Are the World," lending his high tenor to the lines "Oh, there's a choice we're making / We're saving our own lives." He also recorded a song, "If Only For the Moment, Girl" for the We Are the World album.
Perry debated continuing a solo career or returning to Journey after the success of Street Talk. His mother said "Journey," and Steve obliged. He left his second solo album Against the Wall unfinished and instead sang on Journey's Raised on Radio album. Perry would revisit his solo project after the Raised On Radio tour but it never saw completion. Several of the songs that were recorded for Against the Wall, however, did appear much later on Perry's 1998 solo compilation, Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased.
While Steve was re-uniting with Journey, his mother became ill. The recording of Raised on Radio, which Perry was producing, was stop-and-go as he frequently returned to the San Joaquin valley to visit his family. It took a major toll on Journey to have intermittent recording sessions and a vocalist who was not with the band much of the time. Eventually, as Steve later said, he was "toast." Journey disbanded in 1987 after the Raised on Radio tour. Perry disappeared from public view for years afterward, taking a break from the music industry.
Journey's classic 1981-85 lineup reunited in 1996 to record Trial by Fire. The album was a success, entering the Billboard charts at #3 and going Platinum before year's end, but its triumph was short-lived. Before the Trial By Fire tour could begin, Perry suffered a hip injury while hiking in Hawaii and was unable to perform. Perry was diagnosed with a degenerative bone condition and a hip replacement would be required. Reluctant to rush into surgery, Perry wished to postpone the tour. The tour wasn't going to happen, and due to the long wait between the album's release and the tour's postponed kick-off date, as well as the absence of Journey's iconic frontman, Journey fans were losing hope for the band's future.
Meanwhile, long-time Journey drummer Steve Smith resigned, reportedly because Journey without Steve Perry didn't interest him. (Smith had rejoined, along with original Journey member Ross Valory, to complete what Perry has referred to as the band's quintessential line-up.)
The remaining members of Journey waited until 1998, nearly two years after Perry's injury, before making a decision on its future. Growing impatient and realizing the window of opportunity was closing to follow up the great success of the Platinum-selling Trial By Fire LP with a world tour, Journey members Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon met with Perry and presented an ultimatum that he either undergo hip replacement surgery so the tour could proceed upon his recovery or a replacement singer would be hired. Perry, still hesitant to undergo surgery and now apparently upset at his bandmates' intractability and their meddling in personal health decisions, decided to part ways with Journey. Without a lineup for any Trial by Fire tour, the band knew they had to replace Perry with a dynamic high tenor, whom they found in their new vocalist, Steve Augeri of Tall Stories, whose striking physical and vocal similarity to Perry was easier for fans to accept, and nearly two years to the day after the album's initial release, Journey began its long-postponed tour. Augeri's gig with Journey lasted until the summer of 2006, when he stopped touring due to a recurring throat infection. Replaced by Jeff Scott Soto of Schon's band Soul SirkUS on December 19 of that year, Journey had another lead singer. But by the following June, Soto, lacking widespread Journey fan support, left the band. Again without a leading tenor to carry the sonic weight and soaring presence of Perry's voice, Schon, in a desperate act as he failed to find the group's next lead vocalist, searched the Internet, and on YouTube he found Arnel Pineda, the Philippine-born frontman of The Zoo and, vocally at least, a near dead-ringer for Perry. Pineda, a youthful 40 years old, with his amazing likeness to Perry's voice, officially became Journey's lead singer on December 5, 2007, and debuted with the band on February 21, 2008 at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival held at the Quinta Vergara Amphitheater in Viña del Mar, Chile.
While being interviewed during Journey's Revelation tour of 2008, Schon and Cain praised Perry's mighty presence in Journey, adding that Perry had "raised the bar" for Journey. Bassist Valory suggested Journey lead singers who sound like him do so in honor of Perry's legacy with Journey.
In 2009, he will be eligible for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. He has been eligible for induction as a member of Journey since 2000.
|1984||Street Talk||12||2x Platinum|
|1994||For the Love of Strange Medicine||15||Gold|
|Year||Title||U.S. Hot 100||U.S. Mainstream Rock||Album|
|1984||"Oh Sherrie"||3||1||Street Talk|
|1984||"Foolish Heart"||18||-||Street Talk|
|1984||"She's Mine"||21||-||Street Talk|
|1984||"Strung Out"||40||-||Street Talk|
|1994||"You Better Wait"||29||-||For the Love of Strange Medicine|
|1994||"Missing You"||74||-||For the Love of Strange Medicine|
In contrast to this statement, Perry has also stated "Never say never" when the issue of returning to Journey has been brought up, possibly speculating a return to his former band.
Despite his acrimonious break with Journey, Perry was producer on the 2003 Greatest Hits DVD 1978-1997 as well as the 2005 package Journey Live in Houston 1981: Escape Tour, which included both a DVD video of the performance and a music-only CD of the same show. Perry has described the emotional experience of reliving the Escape tour and the entire band's history while editing the film as "a heartache".
In 2005, Perry produced a track on a solo album for former Ambrosia lead vocalist David Pack, titled The Secret of Moving On. Perry also provides background vocals for "A Brand New Start," among the many songs he and Pack co-wrote shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The album, released in September, 2005, includes covers of two of Pack's biggest hits with Ambrosia, "Biggest Part of Me" and "You're the Only Woman."
During the 2005 baseball season, the resurgent Chicago White Sox adopted Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" as their unofficial team anthem. As a result, Perry (an avid San Francisco Giants fan, although he has been seen at Los Angeles Dodgers games recently) was asked to attend the World Series and even travelled with the team to Houston where they swept the Astros in four consecutive games. Perry joined the players on the field and in the locker room as they celebrated their championship.
In Fall 2006, Perry's two solo projects Street Talk and For the Love of Strange Medicine (both featuring previously unreleased material) plus his Greatest Hits CD were remastered and re-released.
In a Q&A posted in December 2006, Perry indicated that Sony has approached him about releasing a collection of his music videos on DVD, and that while he enjoys producing other artists he currently has no solid plans to record a new album.
In early 2007, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt stated that he is writing songs with Steve Perry.
After The Sopranos finale, which used "Don't Stop Believing" to close out, Perry argued that he deserved to find out how the show ended in order to know if his song had been used properly. Steve confirmed this on a phone interview with popular Irish DJ Ray Foley, in which he said he didn't wish the song to play over a slaughter of one or several of the main characters. The shows producers initially would not tell Perry the ending, but relented when it became clear to them that he would not give his approval without first seeing how the song was to be used.
In August 2007, Go Kart records released GuFF's album Symphony of Voices, which featured "I Can See It in Your Eyes," a song from the Japan release of Trial By Fire. Perry sang lead on the track.
Since Journey fired singer Jeff Scott Soto in June 2007, many fans speculated that Perry would re-join Journey. Perry denied the rumors and speculation later that month when he posted on Fanasylum.com, saying that he has "no such plans whatsoever to rejoin Journey." On December 5, 2007, the band's official site announced that Filipino singer-songwriter Arnel Pineda is the new lead singer.
On March 30, 2008, former members of Journey's Management Team revealed that Steve Perry had recently played them demos of new material and that his voice was as good as ever. It was further added that at this time plans for forthcoming new material from Perry were not known.
In July 2008, long-time fan Ross Muir, along with friend and vocalist Jason Nalu, wrote what many fans already feel may be the definitive guide to Steve Perry as regards his vocal ability and career in front of a microphone. Entitled 'One in a Million' it has been made available by the author as a free download