Journey lost singer Steve Perry for a second time on May 7, 1998. The first time, back in the ’80s, Perry’s exit had been voluntary – the result of recent solo success and growing indifference toward the band.
Left to their own devices at the time, former bandmates Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain formed Bad English with singer John Waite. (Perry had fired founding bassist Ross Valory and longtime drummer Steve Smith during the sessions for 1986’s Raised on Radio.)
A decade mostly gone from bright arena spotlights paved the way for Journey’s triumphant mid-’90s reunion. The resulting Top 20 album, 1996’s Trial by Fire, swam against the current of the era’s reigning alt-rock. Three charting singles, a Grammy nomination and plans for a successful comeback tour made it seem just like the good old days.
Unfortunately, those touring plans were derailed when Perry suffered a hiking accident and refused to undergo the hip surgery necessary to get him back onstage. This opened the door to renewed ill will and undoubtedly dredged up memories of the singer’s late-’80s power grab for Journey’s fate.
Instead of bending to Perry’s whims this time, the other members of Journey banked on their fan base’s renewed support and unquenchable hunger for tour dates by recruiting a Perry soundalike Steve Augeri in order to get on with business.
The band’s decision appeared to have been vindicated by a successful decade-plus of touring and recording with Augeri and, later, Arnel Pineda. Perry, for his part, maintained a relatively low profile, seemingly satisfied belting out “Don’t Stop Believin'” from the bleachers of his hometown San Francisco Giants’ baseball stadium, and occasionally showing up as a guest singer. He’s only put out one proper solo album since, 2018’s Traces. (Perry released a different version of the same LP in 2020, followed by The Season, an album of Christmas standards, in 2021).
Journey joined the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. Before the ceremony, Schon said he hoped Perry would perform with him again. Instead, Perry ended up taking part only in the acceptance speeches, simply commenting: “I am truly grateful that Journey is being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”
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Singers may come, and singers most certainly may go, but some great songs remain.
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