Stephan Ellis, former bassist of the infamous arena rock band Survivor, has died. Ellis’ death was confirmed on Facebook by the band’s guitarist Frankie Sullivan, though his cause of death has not yet been revealed. He was 69.
“We are devastated to hear that Stephan Ellis has passed away,” Sullivan wrote. “Steph was the guy who was only interested in the music. He absolutely had a special charm with the fans and within the band. I loved much when it came to Steph.”
Ellis joined survivor in the early 1980s, performing on their 1981 album Premonition. The album track “Poor Man’s Son” later made it onto the Top 40, becoming the band’s first charting single. Soon after, the group was approached by Sylvester Stallone to record a song for Rocky III, changing rock history forever with “Eye of the Tiger.”
“Eye of the Tiger” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1982, spending six weeks at the position and 25 weeks on the charts. The single later won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group and was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards in 1982.
Ellis remained an on-and-off member of the band throughout the 1980s, leaving the group for a period between 1983 and 1987 due to medical reasons. During this period, the band released three albums, earning chart-topping hits “High On You,” “The Search Is Over,” “Is This Love,” and “Burning Heart.”
In his Facebook remembrance, Sullivan mentions working with Ellis during this period on the song “Keep It Right Here.” “The bass part and lines in the intro just folded into the mix and it was the bass part that inspired me to reach higher on my guitar,” he writes. “We cut our tracks together, live in the studio. Steph’s runs on the neck of that blue bass are as memorable as the song itself.” Read Sullivan’s full post below.