Is it possible to be the lead singer of two of the biggest bands of the 70's and sing some of the most enduring songs in all of rock history and be inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame and have no one know your name?
Well if your name is Gregg Rolie then yes it is possible. I was watching some interview with that karaoke farce of a cover band Journey. Fans were debating if this garbage should be considered Journey if the original lead singer Steve Perry was not in the band. But the problem with that question is, Steve Perry was not the original singer of Journey. Gregg Rolie was.
If you ask most people who the lead singer of Santana is, they would probably answer Carlos Santana is the lead singer and who sings their biggest hits like "Black Magic Woman" or "Evil Ways" they would again probably answer Carlos Santana. The right answer however is Gregg Rolie.
You see a theme here? How could Gregg Rolie just fade away into obscurity? How is that possible? When you have fronted two humongous bands and sang all these monster hits. Well the short answer is by choice. Rolie in fact left both bands by choice. But instead of being hailed as the amazing talent that he was, he's just a small footnote, in the history of rock. Hopefully I can at least turn a few people on to his awesomeness.
In 1967 Rolie joined forces with Carlos Santana and formed the Carlos Santana Blues Band, which they then shortened to Santana. It was their performance at Woodstock that gave them the boost that they needed and made their debut album "Santana" a huge hit. The single "Evil Ways" sung by Mr.Rolie went as high as number 9 on the Billboard charts.
Their next album Abraxas was released in 1970 and went to number 1 on Billboard. Spawning the hit single "Black Magic Woman". Sung by guess who? That's right Gregg Rolie. The album eventually would go on to sell 4 million copies with "Black Magic Woman" becoming Santana's biggest hit.
Now the original Journey that Rolie and Schon formed was not really the Journey you probably know and love. The beginning of Journey had their roots in progressive rock sounding more like Yes or ELP.
They released 3 albums, starting with Journey in 75. Followed by Look Into The Future in 76 and Next in 1977. All three albums were commercial disappointments.
Then the record company and management stepped in and asked that a new singer be brought in with a more commercial appeal to compliment Gregg Rolie. The first singer did not work out and was jettisoned soon after. Then in stepped Steve Perry and magic.
In my humble opinion the more vocalists a band has the better. Journey with Steve Perry and Gregg Rolie was the greatest version of Journey there ever was. The songs were incredible, pure arena rock. Perry's pop sensibilities and Rolie's gruff growl made this band unbeatable. The songs where they share lead vocals are some of the greatest rock songs ever.
1978's Infinity began the awesomeness. If you don't think "Feeling That Way and "Anytime" are not an exercise in power rock perfection, you my friend you truly suck.
1979 brought "Evolution" and again the best song on the album was a song, sung by both Perry and Rolie, "Just The Same Way". Are we finally seeing a trend? That trend being Gregg Rolie. I mean this dude was gifted.
In 1980 Journey released the aptly titled "Departure". Gregg Rolie was tired of life on the road and had decided to leave, for the second time in his career he left a hugely successful band.
Ironically, it was Gregg Rolie who chose his own replacement. Jonathan Cain of The Baby's. Which ushered in the sappy pure pop nonsense era of Journey. Besides being an amazing singer/songwriter, Rolie was a wicked organ player, giving Journey a unique musical style as well.
Can you imagine where Journey might have gone had Rolie stayed in the band? Granted "Escape" was a masterpiece of power rock, but everything that followed was pretty torturous. "Frontiers" and "Raised On Radio" were puke inducing and that wretched piece of crap come back album "Trial By Fire". Please don't get me started on Journey without Steve Perry.
So where did Gregg Rolie go? Pretty much into the ether. He made some solo records, formed some bands, even joined Santana on a few forgettable records but as far as being relevant, he left that all behind when he flew the coop on Journey.
I mean I can't fault someone for wanting a simpler life. Being on the road for a decade must have taken a toll physically and mentally but to leave two of the biggest bands wow, that is ballsy and some might say stupid. But we'll always have those amazing songs. Maybe even cooler heads will prevail and Steve Perry and Gregg Rolie will get back with Journey one last time. Hey, The Eagles did it.