Whether it’s Oliver Stone setting a scene from Platoon to Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber,or Quentin Tarantino setting a scene from Reservoir Dogs to “Stuck In The Middle” by Stealer’s Wheel, filmmakers often depend upon certain passages of music to produce specific emotional reactions in their audiences. And actor/director Sylvester Stallone is no exception: His Rocky franchise produced its second #1 pop hit on July 24, 1982 when Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” began a six-week run atop the Billboard pop chart.
The first #1 hit from Stallone’s boxing series was “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky),” which topped the charts in the summer of 1977, with a very different tone than the hard-charging “Eye Of The Tiger.” Like the films’ main character, who transformed himself from a lovable, if bumbling palooka in the first Rocky into a vengeful, muscle-bound warrior in Rocky III, “Eye Of The Tiger” eschewed subtlety in favor of brute force. But as brute-force pop songs go, few have been more effective than the one-and-only #1 hit from the Chicago bar-band Survivor.
Survivor was hand-picked by Sylvester Stallone to write a song for the second Rocky sequel after he heard their minor 1981 hit “Poor Man’s Son,” a mid-tempo number in the vein of Foreigner or .38 Special. For the Rocky III soundtrack, Stallone told songwriting band members Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik that he wanted “something with a strong beat…that would appeal to the rock crowd.” What he got was one of the most effective and popular soundtrack hits of all time as “Eye Of The Tiger” raced to #1 on the pop charts and remained there for six consecutive weeks—five weeks longer than the theme song for the original Rocky.
As for Survivor, they turned out a respectable run of six more top-40 hits over the subsequent four years, including the #2 hit “Burning Heart” (1985) from the Rocky IV soundtrack.