The most inspirational stories to come out of the entertainment industry in recent years is that of the young man who is currently the lead vocalist for the band, Journey. Journey was among the most popular in the 1980s, known most for its spectacular hit, “Don’t Stop Believing.”
A few years ago, when that song was played as the massively-hyped closing scene concluded the “Sopranos” TV series, it again became hugely popular. Members of Journey decided to reconstitute the band, record some new songs and go on tour. But the lead singer, the “sound” of Journey, Steve Perry, simply opted out.
The other band members were at a loss, and went searching for a possible replacement for Perry. Perusing YouTube, they hit upon a most unlikely talent, a young Philippino singing 1980s cover songs at a nightclub in Hong Kong. When they e-mailed him, as Arnel Pineda recalled later, he thought it was a hoax. But a friend convinced him to respond to it. Two days later, he was in San Francisco for an audition.
A few months after that, at the end of 2007, he was chosen to lead the group, and since then he’s been spectacular, bringing the Journey show to the Jiffy Tube (formerly Nissan) Amphitheater in Bristow Sunday night.
But the full story goes back much further, to when Pineda was a child in the Philippines. Raised by his mother, who taught him to sing, he wound up homeless at age 13 when his mother died. For two years, he slept in parks and on public benches as a homeless youth. But the gift his mother gave him became his salvation.
Pulling together a band, he began performing and the beauty of his voice captivated a growing following as he moved through many different band configurations. He wound up winning regional vocalist competitions, which led to an offer to regularly perform at a club in Hong Kong. That’s when the Journey band members found him.
Pineda, in some TV interviews, becomes very emotional when talking about his mom. She, the memory of his years on the lowest margins of society, a veritable “street urchin,” and his spectacular rise to an unbelievable platform of success animate his performances with Journey now. Not only is his voice powerful and flawless, a sound perfectly mirroring Perry’s original, but his incredible energy on the stage comes across as one mighty show of pure happiness and gratitude.
His shows are more of a life experience for audiences than a concert.
With his success, he’s taken Journey on a journey that included to Manilla, for a benefit concert near where he’d been homeless. Proceeds went to help the homeless now there, and the band wrote a new song, entitled, “The City of Hope.”
Would that every city could be “The City of Hope,” where the lowliest and hungriest are never abandoned, but helped to develop and amplify their beauty.