“Burning Heart” by Survivor

This is the theme song of the movie “Rocky IV” and accordingly fits directly into its storyline. In that film, the protagonist is an American boxer whose main rival is from Russia. And Hollywood being what it was back then, these characters are more or less blatant personifications of capitalism versus communism and the Cold War beef between the United States and Russia.

And those are the concepts we are introduced in from the onset of the track.  For instance, here we have a case where “two worlds” are “colliding”. In fact they are “rival nations”. And we can see that whatever is going down has dire consequences with ‘so much being at stake’, even with ‘our freedom being up against the ropes’ (with the latter statement being the only lyrical indication that this song is actually about a boxing match). In other words, the contest featured therein has potentially dire consequences – so much so that the singer is not sure the ‘crowd understands’ its ramifications. Indeed he questions is this simply a contest of “man against man”, or is it actually “East versus West”. Or put differently, these two men who are going at each other actually represent entire regions.

2nd Verse

Meanwhile the second verse reads more like the predecessor to “Burning Heart”, which is another Survivor dropped entitled “Eye of the Tiger” (1982).  For this section is centered squarely on the mental disposition the subject must possess in order to be successful in his field. For instance, as a ‘warrior’ he is compelled to never surrender. Moreover even if his body reaches the point where he wants to quit, his spirit wills him to fight on. Indeed the fight he is engaged in is classified as “a battle of wills”, not so much a physical endeavor. 

And those who are familiar with the movie know that one of its main subplots is Rocky having to train himself hard in order to succeed. In fact “Burning Heart” is featured during a pivotal scene in the film where Rocky (the American) is training his utterly hard in order to defeat Ivan Drago (the Russian). Moreover the titular “burning heart” itself is actually symbolic of his all-encompassing desire for him to win.


Thus as we see in the chorus, the protagonist possesses “an unquenchable thirst” which is once again an allusion to his determination to succeed. And the “burning heart” is also noticeably compared to an “unmistakable fire”.  This would insinuate that the subject’s resolve is palpable, as in being visible to those whom he encounters.

Lyrics of "Burning Heart"

And it has been noted that “Burning Heart” is a lot less-ambiguous than “Eye of the Tiger”. Or stated otherwise, this particular song fits more directly into the narrative of the film it is featured on and leaves less room for interpretation outside of the context of the movie. But that being said, many people still find this track to be generally inspirational nonetheless. For at its center is “the burning heart”, which is a metaphor for a person’s unflinching desire to succeed at a particular endeavor.

When did “Burning Heart” come out?

“Burning Heart” came out on 1 November 1985. It came out as the lead single from the “Rocky IV (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)”. And it has since then been featured on multiple compilation albums.

This was the second time Survivor provided a theme song for a Rocky movie.  The first was on the prior installment, “Rocky III”, for which they dropped the timeless classic “Eye of the Tiger”. FYI “Eye of the Tiger” is also featured on the “Rocky IV” soundtrack. And in both cases it was Sylvester Stallone himself who requested that Survivor provide a song for the film.

A Hit Song

And even though this track didn’t fare as exceptionally as its predecessor, it was still a hit. For example, it peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 5 in Britain. Moreover it actually topped the Eurochart Hot 100 as well as the Swiss Singles Chart.

Usage in Grand Theft Auto

“Burning Heart” also holds the distinction of being featured on one of the radio stations on the popular “Grand Theft Auto V” (2013) videogame.

Writing Credits for “Burning Heart”

As with “Eye of the Tiger”, “Burning Heart” was written by Survivor members J. Peterik and F. Sullivan. The duo also produced the song.  However, this time around it was Jimi Jamison who provided the lead vocals on the track. Jamison would also later cover this song on his solo album “Empires” (1999).

Unlike “Eye of the Tiger”, this time around Peterik and Sullivan did not rely on clips from the movie when creating the song. Rather they were given a script of “Rocky IV” itself. In fact a certain line featured in the track, “it’s you against you”, was actually lifted directly from the movie.

“The Unmistakable Fire”

The working title of “Burning Heart” was actually “The Unmistakable Fire”.  But as with “Eye of the Tiger”, Sly Stallone was once directly involved with Survivor in creating this track. So for instance, he was the one who damned the idea of using the aforementioned as the title.

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