Arnel Pineda was born in the Philippines, in the Sampaloc area of Manila. His mother instilled his love for singing at an early age, encouraging him to sing along with her to songs from his favorite singers like Karen Carpenter and Barbra Streisand on the radio.
Growing up, his parents entered him in many singing contests. His parents were both tailors, and Arnel, the oldest of four boys, always knew when his father walked towards him with a tape measure, it meant new clothes for another singing contest.
His mother, who had been suffering from heart disease, died when he was thirteen. Her illness had left their family deep in debt. Being 6 months or one year behind on their rented apartment and unable to sufficiently provide for the family, his father decided to move out and ask relatives to take in Pineda’s siblings. To ease his father’s burden, Pineda quit school and volunteered to strike out on his own.
About two years of his life were spent out on the streets, sleeping wherever he could: in public parks, or on a narrow bench outside a friend’s crowded house. He earned meager money by collecting glass bottles, newspapers, and scrap metal and selling them to recyclers. He would also go to the pier with his friends and take on odd jobs like cleaning scrap metal and docked ships. Arnel would hang out with his friends in the street and they would make him sing in exchange for food. He didn’t have much to eat, sometimes rationing a small package of Marie biscuit as his meal for three days.
In 1982, when Pineda was 15-years-old, he joined the Filipino group Ijos and started singing to earn a living.
In 1986, some members of Ijos formed a group called Amo. Amo entered and won the Rock Wars contest in the Philippines.
In 1988, Amo entered and won the Philippines leg of the Yamaha World Band Explosion. They went on to the finals in Hong Kong, but were not qualified to win due to a technicality. The rules stated the winning song had to be an original composition. However, they also stated that the song entry in the finals had to be the same song with which the band won their country’s leg of the competition. Amo’s winning song in the Philippines was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. After the contest, the band continued as Amo, performing live. They opened for Robert Palmer in Manila in 1989.
In 1990, Pineda and other members of Amo formed another band called Intensity Five and once again entered the Yamaha World Band Explosion. Pineda won the Best Vocalist award and the band came in as first runner up.
Later in 1990, five of Amo’s original members split from the band leader, Ulysis Ablang and formed another band behind Pineda, New Age. The remaining members of Amo went on to become The Boss Band, while Pineda’s band, New Age, played regularly at Fire and Rain in Makati City.
In 1991, during one of those performances, a talent agent spotted Pineda and New Age and asked them to move to Hong Kong to perform at a very popular entertainment restaurant called Grammy’s. With New Age, Pineda performed six nights a week, Tuesday through Sunday, for several years thereafter.
After a long-term serious relationship failed in 1994, Pineda suffered health problems, which almost destroyed his voice. He returned to the Philippines. After six months of recuperation, he was able to sing again
He returned to Hong Kong and resumed singing with his band. In 1998, the owner of Igor’s, a horror-themed restaurant/nightclub in Hong Kong, asked New Age to perform there. Dressed in skeleton outfits, they called themselves The Rolling Bones.
In 1999, Pineda caught the attention of Warner Bros. record label and flew back to the Philippines on his days off to record a solo album, the self-titled Arnel Pineda. Most of the album’s ten original songs were slow ballads, with only two upbeat numbers, one of which carries a Latin style. One of the songs, Iiyak Ka Rin (You Will Cry Too) became a karaoke favorite in Asia, while another song Sayang (Too Bad) became a radio favorite. Pineda wrote and arranged several songs. Pineda continued to perform with New Age while making his album and for several years thereafter. In 2001, Pineda sang one song, Looking Glass, with Filipino band, South Border’s album The Way We Do. Earlier that year, Pineda formed a new band, eventually called 9mm, and played around the city’s top bars including The Hard Rock Cafe in Makati City.The band played a three month stint at The Edge in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong in 2002.
In 2004, three members of New Age reformed with a female singer sharing lead vocals with Pineda and called themselves Most W@nted. This band played 3–4 hour sets Monday through Saturday at The Cavern Club in Hong Kong. On their only day off, Sundays, the band often performed at Filipino community events.
In 2005, Arnel recorded the theme song of the short-lived Filipino radio show Dayo. A band named The Visitors was briefly formed for promotion purposes of the Dayo soundtrack consisting of three members from Ijos/Yjoz, Amo, New Age and Most W@nted.
In 2006, encouraged by well-respected Filipino talent manager and TV director, Bert de Leon, Pineda moved back to the Philippines with Monet Cajipe, the guitarist who had been in all of Pineda’s previous bands. They formed The Zoo with Emil Bondoc on bass, Edgar Mendoza on keyboards, and Mckoy Alcantara on drums. They signed on with de Leon’s company, Sundance Entertainment Corporation. The Zoo performed several nights a week at clubs in Manila and Olongapo during 2006 and 2007. Shows regularly spanned 3–5 hours. The Zoo’s first album Zoology was released by MCA Universal in September 2007 featuring 12 original tracks and one cover song (“Pain in My Heart,” originally recorded a decade earlier by Second Wind), five of which were penned by Pineda, and another was co-written by Pineda and Mark Valliente.
Videos of The Zoo performing cover songs by Journey, Survivor, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Air Supply, The Eagles, Kenny Loggins, Stryper and other popular acts from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, began appearing on YouTube in February 2007.
Led Zeppelin – Black Dog
Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water
Stone Temple Pilot – Plush
Aerosmith – I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing
On June 28, 2007, Neal Schon was about to give up searching for a new vocalist on YouTube when he stumbled upon a clip featuring then-unknown Arnel Pineda performing with his cover band at the Hard Rock Cafe in the Philippines.
Journey – Faithfully
Arnel Pineda’s tone, power and ability to sing a wide variety of material, including a couple of Journey classics, impressed Schon.
After watching all the available videos he could find with Pineda, Neal made an excited midnight phone call to share the news with his bandmate Jonathan Cain.
Neal Schon then contacted Noel Gomez, a longtime fan and friend of Pineda who uploaded many of these videos, to ask for Pineda’s contact information.
Soon thereafter, Schon sent an e-mail to Pineda inviting him to audition for Journey. Pineda initially dismissed the e-mail as a hoax and didn’t believe that he was talking to a founding member of one of the biggest bands in rock history. But after being persuaded by Gomez, he finally replied to Schon’s e-mail. Ten minutes later, Pineda received a phone call from Schon.
Six weeks later, after spontaneously singing a Journey song for Philippines immigration officers to prove the reason for his trip, Pineda arrived in San Francisco to meet with Journey. Within a few songs, he had secured the job.
Journey introduced Pineda to the world as their official new singer with the release of their 14th studio album, Revelation, which marked the band’s biggest first-week sales in more than a decade, debuting at #5 on the Billboard 200 in June 2008 and taking the top spot on the Independent Albums chart. Revelation earned the band their 11th Platinum album certification to date, leading The New York Times to declare that “the band…feels alive.” Journey toured the world for two years in support of Revelation, with more than a million fans attending the shows.
One of the most emotional highlights of that tour took place on March 14, 2009, when Journey performed in front of nearly 30,000 people in Pineda’s hometown of Manila, Philippines. While the singer was welcomed as a hero by the Filipino people, the rest of the band members were equally affected as they connected with the roots of their new lead singer. Pineda took the guys to his old neighborhood and school, and even the park where he slept as a 13-year-old homeless child, after his mother passed away.
His incredible story of loss, survival and eventual success helped forge a bond with his bandmates that remains as strong as ever.
Journey is an American rock band formed in 1973 in San Francisco by former members of Santana and Frumious Bandersnatch under the auspices of former Santana manager Herbie Herbert.
The band has gone through several phases; its strongest commercial success occurred between 1978 and 1987, after which they temporarily disbanded. During that period, the band released a series of hit songs, including 1981′s “Don’t Stop Believin’”, which became in 2009 the top-selling catalog track in iTunes history.
Overall sales have resulted in two gold albums, eight multi-platinum albums, and one diamond album (including seven consecutive multi-platinum albums between 1978 and 1987). They have had eighteen Top 40 singles in the US, six of which reached the Top 10 of the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and two of which reached No. 1 on other Billboard charts, and a No. 6 hit on the UK Singles Chart in “Don’t Stop Believin’”.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Journey has sold 47 million albums in the US, making them the 28th best selling band. Their worldwide sales have reached over 80 million albums.
Originally called the Golden Gate Rhythm Section and intended to serve as a backup group for established Bay Area artists, the band included recent Santana alumni Neal Schon on lead guitar and Gregg Rolie on keyboards and lead vocals. Bassist Ross Valory and rhythm guitarist George Tickner, both of Frumious Bandersnatch, rounded out the group. Prairie Prince of The Tubes served as drummer. The band quickly abandoned the original “backup group” concept and developed a distinctive jazz fusion style. After an unsuccessful radio contest to name the group, roadie John Villaneuva suggested the name “Journey.”
Journey released their eponymous first album in 1975, and rhythm guitarist Tickner left the band before they cut their second album, Look into the Future (1976). Neither album achieved significant sales, so Schon, Valory, and Dunbar took singing lessons in an attempt to add vocal harmonies to Rolie’s lead. The following year’s Next contained shorter tracks with more vocals, and featured Neal Schon as lead singer on two of the songs.
Journey’s album sales did not improve and Columbia Records requested that they change their musical style and add a frontman, with whom keyboardist Gregg Rolie could share lead vocal duties. The band hired Robert Fleischman and transitioned to a more popular style, akin to that of Foreigner and Boston. Journey went on tour with Fleischman in 1977 and together the new incarnation of the band wrote the hit “Wheel in the Sky”, but fans were lukewarm to the change and management differences resulted in Fleischman leaving within the year.
In late 1977, Journey hired Steve Perry as their new lead singer. Perry added a clean, tenor sound and the band became a true pop act.
Steve Perry provided lead vocals on nine of Journey’s albums between 1978 and 1996.
Infinity (1978), Evolution (1979), Departure (1980), Dream, After Dream (1980, a Japanese movie soundtrack), Captured (1980, a live album), Escape (1981, which went to #1 on the Billboard charts), Frontiers (1983), Raised on Radio (1986), and Trial By Fire (1996).
The single “Open Arms,” from Escape, was their biggest hit single, residing for six weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Steve Perry had become the unmistakable voice of Journey throughout his time with the band.
Journey’s classic 1981–85 lineup reunited in 1996 to record Trial by Fire. The album was a huge success, entering the Billboard charts at #3 and going platinum before year’s end, but its triumph was short-lived. Before the Trial By Fire tour could begin, Perry suffered a hip injury while hiking in Hawaii and was unable to perform. Perry was diagnosed with a degenerative bone condition and a hip replacement would be required. Reluctant to rush into surgery, Perry wished to postpone the tour. Due to the long wait between the album’s release and the tour’s postponed kick-off date, as well as the absence of Journey’s iconic frontman, Journey fans were losing hope for the band’s future.
Meanwhile, long-time Journey drummer Steve Smith resigned, reportedly saying “Journey without Steve Perry was like Jack without his box.”
The remaining members waited until 1998, nearly 17 months after Perry’s injury, before making a decision on Journey’s future. Growing impatient and realizing the window of opportunity was closing to follow up the success of the platinum-selling Trial By Fire LP with a world tour, Journey members Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon met with Perry and presented an ultimatum that he either undergo hip replacement surgery so the tour could proceed upon his recovery or a replacement singer would be hired.
Perry, still hesitant to undergo surgery and now apparently upset at his bandmates’ intractability and their perceived meddling in personal health decisions, decided to leave Journey. Perry’s vocal duties were later taken over by Steve Augeri of Tall Stories, and nearly two years after the album’s initial release, Journey began its long-postponed tour.
In 1998, Journey replaced Steve Perry with Steve Augeri, formerly of Tyketto and Tall Stories. The band hired drummer Deen Castronovo, Schon’s and Cain’s Bad English bandmate, and drummer for Hardline, to replace Steve Smith.
In July 2006, Steve Augeri was dropped from the band while they toured with Def Leppard, the band citing a “chronic throat infection.”
For nearly a year Jeff Scott Soto from Talisman filled in, with the band for several months referring to Soto as Journey’s official lead singer. But in June 2007 the band announced that Soto was no longer the lead singer.
In the summer of 2007, Journey began searching for a new lead singer. After Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon found videos of Jeremey Hunsicker performing with his Journey tribute band Frontiers on YouTube, they made a last minute decision to fly across the country to Charlotte, North Carolina to watch Hunsicker perform. After the show, Schon and Cain approached Hunsicker and invited him to fly out to California and audition for the position as lead vocalist for Journey. Hunsicker rehearsed with the band and they wrote songs together for the band’s upcoming album Revelation. Ultimately things did not work out between Journey and Hunsicker. Although he did not become the new singer for the band Hunsicker did receive credit for helping to write the song “Never Walk Away” which was the leading track on the album Revelation.
On June 28, 2007, Neal Schon finally found what he was looking for in Arnel Pineda on YouTube.
Jonathan Cain described the album in an interview: “We recorded our greatest hits with our brand new singer from the Philippines, Arnel Pineda, and it’s unbelievable when you listen to it. We paid a lot of attention to the details because everybody loves those hits and we weren’t about to step all over it. … We’re excited because we think Arnel is the future for our franchise… We knew that if we were ever gonna move on, we had to get somebody that was really gonna be our future and sound like Journey is supposed to sound…I think Journey fans are in for a real treat.”
In an interview soon after Pineda joined the band, Neal Schon said, “We feel reborn. I think there’s a lot of chemistry among the five of us. At first we were going to go into the studio and just write 4 songs, but now it’s escalated to a lot of great new and diverse material. The stuff sounds tremendous. Everyone’s so stoked about it. We feel very fortunate to have found Arnel.”
Although Pineda was not the first foreign national to become a member of Journey (former drummer Aynsley Dunbar is British), nor even the first non-white (former bass player Randy Jackson is black), the transition resulted in what Marin Independent Journal writer Paul Liberatore called “an undercurrent of racism among some Journey fans.” Keyboardist Jonathan Cain responded to such sentiments: “We’ve become a world band. We’re international now. We’re not about one color.”
In 2012 the TriBeCa Film Festival premiered a Documentary titled Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, directed by Ramona A. Diaz. The documentary tells the story of how Journey found lead singer, Arnel Pineda, and follows the band on the road for a year.