In Memoriam: Stephan Ellis
It’s another tough day in the bass world. Stephan Ellis, former bassist for the popular ’80s rock band Survivor, has passed away. He was 69 years old. The news was confirmed on Survivor’s Facebook page by longtime guitarist Frankie Sullivan.
“We are devastated to hear that Stephan Ellis has passed away,” he wrote. “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.”
Although Survivor formed in 1978, Ellis joined up with them in 1981 after the departure of Dennis Keith Johnson. It was just in time to record their second album, Premonition, which had a top 40 hit with “Poor Man’s Son.” The next year was the real turning point for the band after they were approached to write a song for the soundtrack to Rocky III. That became “Eye of the Tiger,” which became a worldwide sensation and garnered Ellis and Survivor a Grammy for Best Rock Performance.
Ellis was a member of the band until 1987 when he had to leave for medical reasons. During that time they recorded three more albums with hits like “Burning Heart,” “The Search Is Over,” and “Is This Love.” The bassist would go on to form Club M.E.D. that released one album in 1990. He also rejoined Survivor in the mid-nineties, only to leave once more and periodically join for one-off shows. He continued to work with artists like David Glen Eisley.
In the Facebook post, Sullivan shared a memory of working with Ellis in the studio. “What I remember most and clearly recall is the day when we cut ‘Keep It Right Here,'” he said. “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.”
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Stephan Ellis.