Flashback To Steve Perry’s Bittersweet Final Moments Onstage With Journey – Hard To Watch
Journey on MV / YouTube
Bill Graham Memorial: Laughter, Love and Music | 1991
While he didn’t write any albums or rock any stages, Bill Graham was every bit a rockstar as the acts he launched into megastardom, and the November 3, 1991 tribute concert in his honor was proof. Killed in a helicopter crash on October 25th, Graham was remembered in a way he’d have been proud to promote himself: a star studded concert dubbed the Bill Graham Memorial: Laughter, Love and Music that saw some of rock’s most popular acts and a few hundred thousand Bay Area residents pack Golden Gate Park to celebrate Graham’s life and legacy.
The event even brought together Bay Area favorites Journey and singer Steve Perry for what would be the last time. It had been four years since Perry had performed with Journey, the band’s Raised on Radio Tour the last to feature Perry and his return – if even for a brief moment in time – earned him a warm welcome from fans who’d missed his presence. All told, Journey’s performance at Bill Graham’s tribute concert was short – too short.
Who Was Bill Graham?
Born Wulf Wolodia Grajonca in 1931, Graham fled Europe at the height of the Holocaust for the safety of the United States where as a child he was taunted for being an immigrant as well as for his thick German accent.
Wanting to appear more American, he adopted a thick New York accent and changed his name to Bill Graham (Graham being the closest thing to ‘Grajonca’), serving in the Army during the Korean War and working as a maître d’ in fine restaurants – a line of work that prepared him for his legacy as a highly skilled concert promoter and negotiator.
Graham would go on to become one of rock and roll’s most loved figures, his love for all things rock giving way to a profound influence around the world as his expertise as a promoter with an “artists first” approach to business earned him the overwhelming respect and gratitude of bands whose most iconic moments can be attributed to Graham, his ventures, and his vision.
Tragically, Bill Graham was killed on October 25th, 1991 after the helicopter he was traveling in crashed into a 223-foot voltage tower. Also killed were Graham’s girlfriend Melissa Gold and pilot Steve Kahn, who’d assured Graham that he would have him “home in 15 minutes” despite the driving rain and dangerous flying conditions that would ultimately contribute to the crash.
In just under 10 minutes, Perry gave the crowd exactly what they’d been waiting for in the form of a 3-song set in Graham’s honor, consisting of “Faithfully, “Lonely Road Without You” and “Lights” and yet it was still not enough for a crowd that knew deep down that it would be a long, long while before they caught him onstage with his former bandmates again and even longer still before they caught him onstage performing again.
Thankfully, we get to relive the magic all over again as the entire day was caught on camera in brilliant color and stunning clarity. Who knows; if Steve surprised us this time, he just might do it again sometime in the near future. Enjoy!