Stone in Love: Thoughts on Journey(s)

As a huge fan of 70s rock, that this film eluded me until this weekend makes me worry about what other deeply canonical stuff I might have missed.

“Everyman’s Journey,” is a film about the “new” (new at the time of filming, back in 2007) lead singer of the historically important rock group, Journey.

That original lead singer, Steve Perry, never really felt like an equal member of the band, leaving in 1998 and becoming somewhat reclusive, isn’t news to rock music fans with any sense of history. What is news, and the subject of this rockumentary, is the life and times of Arnel Campaner Pineda, a Manila-based lounge singer whom the band found on YouTube.

Several times during the film, the fact that he was found by the band on the Internet, flown to the US for a three-day audition, and made a full member of the band (including an equal share of tour revenue) was referred to (by himself and others) as “winning the lottery.”

But the film shows the manifold dimensions of success, the trade-offs we make when we achieve what we always wanted. For Pineda, the transition from singer in Manila bars to touring the world with Journey, and the accompanying physical and emotional grind of so doing, is the stuff of stellar music film.

For those less familiar with Journey, don’t fool yourself into believing that this is the story of a washed-up band. In 2008, the first full year after the late-2007 addition of Pineda, the band grossed $35 million of tour revenue. After (significant) expenses, I’d predict that the new singer’s take-home pay was in the $4 million range. Since then, I’d estimate that he (yes, he’s still the lead singer of Journey in 2016, and they’re on a four-month tour later this year) has earned a touch over $30 million between tour revenue and record sales. My estimate could very well be low.

Not bad for someone who spent part of his youth living in a Manila park with other homeless teens, truly not bad for someone who was discovered though singing cover songs on YouTube such as this one.

I know. Dude is freaking amazing.

So what’s the point?

It’s that there are tons of lotteries we can win in our lives if we’re open to them. Had Pineda and his friend (a superfan of his who would spend all night in Internet cafes uploading the large video files) not responded when Neal Schon, Journey co-founder, reached out over email (they were convinced it was a joke, as you and I would have been as well), he would have taken himself out of the game. Had he gone home the many times he wanted to during his first year of touring, he would have taken himself out of the game.

You can’t win if you don’t play.

But think about how many times in life we’re put into the game but take ourselves out through inaction or just that overwhelming sense of foreboding and a Big Fear that if we actually allow ourselves to hope, we’ll end up crushed, worse off than we ever were.

The current evolution of lottery winner Pineda’s story is actually great. He remains a resident of the Philippines and has set up a foundation to help youth who had to endure a path similar to his. He has resisted the temptations that seized him in the past, and after a very rough start to his Journey with a variety of minor illnesses and exhaustion, he’s seven years into a run as the leading singer of a group that has meant much in the lives of so many people, including your essayist.

This is a movie you should see. It’s a message you should embrace, and a wonderful spur to some critically important reflection.

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