It's safe to say Journey would have been popular without Steve Perry. The group's pre-Perry albums were solid, journeyman (pun intended) efforts. The group's Prog Rock sound would have eventually gelled and found an audience.
It also safe to say that without Steve Perry Journey would never have come anywhere near the phenomenal success they enjoyed.
Journey virtually created '80s Arena Rock, and Perry's soaring and emotive voice was a huge part of that.
Perry, frontman for the recently disbanded Alien Project, recorded a demo tape that fell into the hands of Journey's manager who was looking to replacement the group's current singer, Robert Fleischman. In short order, Perry was in and Fleischman was out. The addition of Perry meant a turn toward a more pop sound and there were grumblings within the group. Years later, Perry stated that he "never really felt like he was part of the band."
Perry's first album fronting Journey was '78's "Infinity" which featured his ode to San Francisco, "Lights." Almost immediately, Perry was mocked for his over pronunciations. Singing the line "When the lights go down in the city" - "City" sounded like "Sit-Tay." Regardless, "Lights" became a key song in the group's repertoire.
After '79's "Evolution" and '80's "Departure," Journey issued "Captured," a live set released in '80. It received mixed reviews though it amply illustrated the band's chops. But the biggest criticism was non-musical.
In between songs, Perry exuberantly tells the audience that they are the best, then asks (facetiously) if they want to travel on the band's bus to the remaining stops on the tour. Of course, there are wild cheers. This level of pandering was routinely ridiculed.
Perry's first non-Journey appearance was a duet with Kenny Loggins on the song "Don't Fight It" for Loggins' album "High Adventure." The song only peaked at #17 but gave an indication of things to come.
Keyboardist Greg Rollie left Journey in '80 and was replaced by Jonathan Cain, who, as a member of The Babys, had already earned a reputation as an accomplished songwriter and arranger. The combination of Perry's vocals, a higher caliber of songs and a more commercial presentation pushed "Escape" to the top of the Billboard album chart. "Who's Crying Now," "Open Arms" and "Don't Stop Believin'" became inescapable singles. Two years later, "Frontiers" kept the hits coming with the ballads "Send Her My Love" and "Faithfully."
Practically on cue, Perry embarked on a solo career releasing '84's "Street Talk." With future American Idol judge Randy Jackson on bass, the set had ballad hits "Foolish Heart" and "Oh Sherrie." Rumors percolated that Perry was going to leave Journey or that the band was breaking up. Neither proved immediately true.
In '85, Perry was one of twenty-one singers on the USA for Africa all-star benefit song "We Are The World." That same year, he began recording a sophomore solo set but that project was shelved so he could work on Journey's "Raised On Radio." Following the album's supporting tour, Journey disbanded.
After an extended 'break', Perry's second solo album, "For the Love Of Strange Medicine," finally dropped in '94 and was a moderate success. Then came a Journey reunion and the release of the hugely popular "Trial By Fire." The '96 effort went platinum and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Album chart.
It as though Journey was back and as big as ever. Too bad it didn't work out that way. After suffering a hip injury while hiking in Hawaii, Perry was diagnosed with a degenerative bone condition. Fellow band members, eager to tour and capitalize on their success, pushed Perry to get the recommended hip surgery.
Perry resisted. When push came to shove, he was replaced by Steve Augeri - and Journey hit the road.
Though Perry eventually got the hip replacement surgery in '98, the bad feelings toward his former bandmates remained.
1984 Street Talk
1994 For The Love Of Strange Medicine
1995 Perry's Coming [Japan-only release]
1998 Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased
2009 Playlist: The Very Best Of Steve Perry
2010 Oh Sherrie: The Best Of Steve Perry