R.I.P. Stephan Ellis, former bassist of Survivor dies

The bassist played on such classic hits as "Eye of the Tiger" and "Burning Heart"

Survivor's Stephan Ellis
Survivor’s Stephan Ellis, from “Burning Heart” video

    Former Survivor bassist Stephan Ellis, who was a member of the Chicago-based rock band during their ’80s heyday, has passed away. The sad news was revealed by longtime Survivor lead guitarist Frankie Sullivan.

    Ellis played on the band’s best-known songs, including the ubiquitous Rocky III theme “Eye of the Tiger”, along with other hits like “Burning Heart” (from the Rocky IV soundtrack), “The Search Is Over”, “High on You”, and more. He was a member of the band from 1981 through 1987, and again from 1996 through 1999. He even filled in on bass one time in 2005, as well.

    The bassist appeared on five Survivor albums in the ’80s, including two platinum-certified discs — 1982’s Eye of the Tiger and 1984’s Vital Signs.


    In a post on the band’s official Facebook page, Sullivan wrote:

    We are devastated to hear that Stephan Ellis has passed away. 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.

    What I remember most and clearly recall is the day when we cut “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. 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.

    The guitar player/bass player vibe has been around for a long time and Stephan and I had our thing as well. We fed off each other a lot and I think it was simply his calm ways that not only presented him to me in the beginning, it was also Steph’s calm ways that often helped most. He was always good for some adventurous storytelling that the censorship of today has removed, never to be told by this band reporter. But I learned a few things, we all did…!!!!

    I will miss Stephan, we all will. We can talk for years about how much he’d cause us to laugh and most importantly to a rock n’ roll band at that time, the infamous “ice” lesson he passed on to us all one day that stuck for a long while.

    This was Stephan Ellis to me –

    Underrated yet never dated. Well dressed and on a consistent basis. Gargoyles and all and he was cool enough to pull off. Stephan was well-coifed, always ready and Stephan Ellis lived his own life in his own way and on his own terms.

    We Love you Steph!

    Survivor remain an active touring band, with Sullivan as their only original member. Their last full-length album was 2006’s Reach. Our condolences go out to Stephan Ellis’ family, friends, and bandmates during this difficult time.

    Revisit Ellis’ work on the classic anthem “Eye of the Tiger” below: