‘Eye of the Tiger’: How Queen and ‘Rocky III’ Led to Survivor’s Biggest Hit

When it comes to workout songs, few compare to “Eye of the Tiger.” Part of the reason it’s famous is that it has one of the most iconic and energizing riffs in the history of rock music. It’s so good it’s become Survivor’s calling card. Interestingly, “Eye of the Tiger” never would have existed if not for Queen.

“Eye of the Tiger” also owes its existence to the Rocky franchise. Sometimes “Eye of the Tiger” is identified as a song from the original Rocky. However, it was actually used in — and deeply influenced by — Rocky III.

Rocky holding a championship belt | John Bryson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

Why there isn’t a Queen song in ‘Rocky III’

In Rocky III, Rocky realizes he’s become too prominent – and therefore soft – for his own good. To toughen himself up for a big fight, he decides to train like no other. Sylvester Stallone, the star and writer of the film, needed a song to put over the film’s central training montage.

Stallone’s first choice was Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” His choice makes sense. Alongside “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You,” “Another One Bites the Dust” is one of Queen’s most famous sports anthems. However, Stallone was unable to secure the rights to the song.

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen

Then, he heard songs by the rock band Survivor. He called a member of the band named Jim Peterik to see if he would write a song for the film. He sent the band a copy of the movie and they learned the song they had to write would serve as a replacement for “Another One Bites the Dust.”

How Survivor wrote ‘Eye of the Tiger’

Survivor found the task intimidating. They decided to write a song that was inspired by “Another One Bites the Dust.” They watched Rocky III for inspiration and honed in one a line where Apollo Creed says Rocky once had “the eye of the tiger, the edge.”

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

Peterik and fellow band member Frank Sullivan were taken with the line. They started writing lyrics around it. Peterik would jog his neighborhood when coming up with ideas for the track and would stop to write down song lyrics. How fitting that Peterik was running when he thought of lyrics to a song that’s commonly played at gyms!

The legacy of ‘Eye of the Tiger’

The song was used in the final cut of Rocky III in a surprising way. It’s actually used in a montage where Rocky’s rival, Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T) rises through the ranks and Rocky sells out. That could have dampened the song’s appeal, but it became a massive success.

“Eye of the Tiger Scene” from Rocky III

“Eye of the Tiger” reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Interestingly, “Another One Bites the Dust” also reached the peak position on the chart. It just goes to show how Queen’s influence has exerted itself in some unexpected ways.

Peterik is proud of the impact the song has had on people. He told The Guardian “the best royalty is that I’ll be in the supermarket and meet random people who tell me the song has affected their lives in a positive way…That’s the real sh*t.”

Also see: Freddie Mercury: 1 Banned Music Video Ended Queen’s Success in the U.S.