Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” Lyrics Meaning

The song “Eye of the Tiger” was written specifically for a movie (“Rocky III”). In this movie, the protagonist is a boxer who has to train hard, both mentally and physically, in order to win a big match. And that’s the basic premise upon which “Eye of the Tiger” is set. 

The singer introduces himself as a humble dude who is surviving simply by his will. However,, a general-inspirational mood is set, as he puts forth that an individual ‘must fight to keep his dreams alive’. In other words, despite being a modest person, he has not given up on achieving certain goals. The vocalist also denounces ‘trading passion for glory’. That particular statement is based directly on the storyline of “Rocky III”. In this film, the titular character is initially depicted as someone who lets the pleasures of success override his will to remain competitive.

Meaning of “Tiger” as used in this song

Meanwhile the chorus and second verse capture the mood of the song more holistically. Basically the “tiger” in the title is a metaphor for a human being.  That is the singer desires to adopt some of a tiger’s characteristics to be applied in his own life. And what he seems to admire most about this animal is its survival skills and drive to remain dominant in the field. Or looked at from another perspective, the lyrics compare surviving in the wild to surviving on “the street”, with “the tiger” being the ideal animal to illustrate the intended points. Thus just as a tiger relishes “the thrill of the fight”, a competitive person should also adopt a similar disposition. 

And overall the basic sentiment is that a tiger always ‘stays hungry’ and prepared to take on his next competitor. And with this once again being a sports-based song, the implication is that an aggressive and confrontational sportsman like a boxer should behave likewise.

At the end of the day, we see that conducting himself in such a manner does in fact result in the singer’s success. Indeed he states that having the courage to succeed was a prerequisite to eventually ‘getting the glory’. But now after going “the distance” and reaching “the top”, he is “not gonna stop” aspiring to remain the best. Instead such a lifestyle is now part of his personality, being once again “just a man [with a] will to survive”.

Who wrote “Eye of the Tiger”?

This track was written by Survivor members Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan specifically for the purpose of being featured on Sylvester Stallone’s classic film “Rocky III” (1982). In fact it was Mr. Stallone himself who requested that Survivor provide the movie’s theme song.

This was after he and the movie’s producers could not secure the right to use their initial choice of background music for a pivotal scene in the film. And in fact the song this particular section was first set to is another classic, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” (1980).

Sylvester Stallone also contributed directly to the composition of “Eye of the Tiger”. For instance, Survivor had actually watched the scene in “Rocky III” in which “Eye of the Tiger” was to be set before writing the song. Additionally the Italian Stallone made certain suggestions concerning the recording of the track, such as the band actually writing a third verse instead of repeating the first instead as they originally intended to.

A Great Inspirational Sports Song

“Eye of the Tiger” has become a favorite amongst aspiring sportsmen and even individuals going through physical therapy. Simply put, this song is very inspirational. And in hindsight, Jim Peterik logically understands why such is so. However, when he was actually penning the tune, he says that he never imagined it would have such an universal appeal. According to him, he never for a moment imagined it would be famous outside of the boxing arena. And why? Simply because he and Sullivan wrote it specifically for the movie.

Success of “Eye of the Tiger”

In fact this track was so successful that Survivor was commissioned to work on the soundtrack to the sequel to “Rocky III”, which was appropriately titled “Rocky IV” (1985). That time around they came up with another original song, “Burning Heart”, which has also become a fan favorite. Moreover “Eye of the Tiger” was used in “Rocky IV” also.

“Eye of the Tiger” has also been used by a few pop-media franchises, such as “The Big Bang Theory” (2009) and “Breaking Bad” (2011), throughout the years. However, in many cases the song is either parodied or performed by the characters themselves.

In fact Weird Al Yankovich mocked “Eye of the Tiger” in 1984 with a track he called “The Rye or the Kaiser”, in reference to two different types of bread.

Moreover it should be noted that in 1986 Gary Busey actually starred in a film entitled “Eye of the Tiger”. And that movie prominently featured Survivor’s song.

Commercially “Rocky III” was one of the most-successful films released in 1982. And the same goes for “Eye of the Tiger” in regards to the music industry. In fact in the grand scheme of things, the song actually proved to be more-successful than the movie itself, as Billboard basically ranked it the top song of 1982.

Chart Success

In terms of its chart record, “Eye of the Tiger” reached number one in nine-different countries. This includes the UK Singles Chart, the US Billboard Hot 100 and the Oricon International Chart in Japan.

This song has also sold over six-million copies in the United States in addition to going multi-Platinum in Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom.  And in the United States and UK that is physical and digital copies combined.  In fact in those countries the digital sales of “Eye of the Tiger” outnumber the hard copies sold.

Indeed “Eye of the Tiger” has charted regularly and internationally since the turn of the century. This is largely due to people downloading the song.

Academy Award Nomination

“Eye of the Tiger” was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Original Song) in 1982.

Grammy Win

And during that same year Survivor actually did win a Grammy (Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal) as a result of this track.  However, they did not attend the event. This was reportedly due to the fact that Peterik and Sullivan, who actually created the song, were for that reason the only band members invited.

Usage of “Eye of the Tiger” in Political Campaigns

A couple of prominent American politicians have used this song whilst campaigning. One is Newt Gingrich and the other Mike Huckabee. Frankie Sullivan, who owns the rights to “Eye of the Tiger”, ended up suing them both respectively in 2012 and 2015. And in both cases the matter was eventually settled outside of court.

Release Date of “Eye of the Tiger”

“Eye of the Tiger” was released on 29 May 1982 as the lead single from Survivor’s third album. This album was also entitled “Eye of the Tiger”. That means it was featured on both this album and the “Rocky III” soundtrack.

However, the songs are not identical. In fact the movie version is actually a demo. Survivor re-recorded the song to be featured on their own album.

In addition to co-writing “Eye of the Tiger”, Sullivan is also the track’s producer.

And it should be noted that the working title of “Eye of the Tiger” was actually “Survival”.

5 Responses

  1. Cat says:


  2. Anonymous says:

    Damn how did a cat write that??

  3. Ur Mom says:


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