Jimi Jamison, who has died aged 63 of a heart attack, was the lead singer of the US rock band Survivor from 1984 to 1988, again from 2000 to 2006, and then from 2011 until his death.
The group was formed in Chicago in 1978 and enjoyed a huge international hit in 1982 with Eye of the Tiger, which appeared on the soundtrack to Sylvester Stallone's boxing movie Rocky III and featured vocals by David Bickler. Bickler was forced to leave the band due to polyps on his vocal cords, and Jamison replaced him. His powerful vocal style was a perfect fit for Survivor's brash, often overblown songs. As the group's guitarist, Jim Peterik, said: "Very few bands can survive a lead singer transplant [but] Jimi had the most magical voice I'd ever heard."
One of his best-known vocal performances came in 1985 with Survivor's Burning Heart, which appeared on the soundtrack of Rocky IV. Other hits featuring Jamison included Is This Love?, Man Against the World (which he co-wrote) and The Moment of Truth, which appeared on the soundtrack to The Karate Kid (1984).
Raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Jamison learned to sing and play the guitar and piano by his early teens and formed his first band, the Brutes, at school. "We were surrounded with rhythm and blues and soul music," recalled Jamison, "so naturally I was influenced by the sounds of Stax Records and soul music. I even learned to play trumpet, because what's a soul band without a trumpet and sax?" After stints with local bands, Jamison became the singer of the heavy rock band Cobra and supplied backing vocals for well-known artists such as ZZ Top and Joe Walsh.
In his first, four-year stint with Survivor, Jamison sang on three albums with the group, embarking on a solo career after a split in 1989. While Survivor was his biggest-selling band, Jamison might well have gone still further had he accepted an offer to join Deep Purple the same year. "I really wanted to play with that band. It was an honour just to be asked," he recalled. "I had just finished my first solo record [When Love Comes Down], and they wanted me to go out and promote it … I had to tell Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord [of Deep Purple] that I couldn't join."
In the following decade, legal troubles divided the Survivor members: the group re-formed in 1993 with Bickler on vocals, while Jamison toured under the Survivor name. After securing a hit in 1994 with I'm Always Here, a theme tune for later seasons of the TV series Baywatch, Jamison replaced Bickler for a second time in 2000, leaving again six years later.
In recent years the testosterone-driven nature of Survivor's material was occasionally the subject of some ridicule: the band agreed to appear in a 2005 advertisement for the coffee chain Starbucks, which featured the Jamison-fronted line-up performing a parody of Eye of the Tiger. The advert was rewarded with an Emmy nomination, however, and the critical and commercial response to Survivor albums such as Reach (2006) remained positive.
In 2013, Survivor toured with both vocalists, all legal issues having been resolved. Between commitments with the band, Jamison continued to write and record solo material, and teamed up with the sometime Toto singer Bobby Kimball on the project Kimball/Jamison.
Jamison is survived by his wife, Debbie, and their three children, Amy, James and Lacy.
• Jimi Jamison, singer, born 23 August 1951; died 31 August 2014
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