Sunday, February 12, 2012

RAGS TO RICHES - Arnel Pineda's Journey

He was just a small-town boy, as his favourite band once put it, working on the not-so-lonely cover band circuit in Quezon City, Manila, as lead singer for a band called Zoo. Arnel Pineda didn't reckon on achieving more or less fame than any of the zillion other Filipino cover band singers that keep the crowds entertained at bars and lounges of hotels from Bahrain to Beijing. One thing was for sure, though: Arnel Pineda could imitate the throaty wail of Journey lead singer Steve Perry like nobody's business.

In 2006 something happened that made few waves in the international rock scene, but would change Pineda's life forever. The aging rockers of Journey were forced to drop lead singer Steve Augeri, who was losing his voice but had never really sounded like Perry anyway. The next year, after another lead singer didn't work out, the band stumbled across some clips of Pineda on YouTube. Incredulous, they invited him to LA for an audition.

When Pineda applied for his visa, the story goes, nobody at the US Embassy believed his ostensible 'purpose for travel' - auditioning to be lead singer of Journey. So they asked him to sing a few bars of 'Wheels in the Sky.' He nailed it, they issued the visa, and he was on his way to rock n' roll infamy.

The band introduced Pineda as their new lead singer in early 2008, turning 90 million Filipinos into Journey fans overnight. Filipinos love a good rags-to-riches story to affirm their hope that things can always get better. Pineda, a one-time homeless kid on the streets of Manila, has done more than give Filipinos a good story-he has given them something to be proud of.

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