What Happened to Perry's Sherri?
The love between Steve Perry and Sherri Swafford did not “hold on” as anticipated in his 1984 song “Oh, Sherri”. Former lead-singer Steve Perry made Journey, a rock n’ roll band consisting of five members, top the charts during the decade of 1977-1987, while at the same time, jump-starting his solo career in 1984. On September 3rd, 1983, Journey concluded their world-wide Frontiers tour in Honolulu, Hawaii. After five extensive years of touring and producing over six albums, the band decided to take a break, and go home for a while, lasting through 1984. Meanwhile, Steve Perry took the time to jump-start his solo career in 1984 with his first album Street Talk. Several big hits were released with that album, including “Oh, Sherri” – a song about his real-life girlfriend Sherri Swafford and the love they shared. Perry’s career was hot and running, but in 1984, his life became increasingly difficult. Perry’s mother, Mary Perry, was diagnosed that year with a terminal illness leaving her bed-stricken, and the relationship with Sherri Swafford wasn’t cozy. At the same time, as 1984 approached it’s end, Perry was working with Journey to create their new album Raised on Radio. The final end of the so-called “Perry-Sherri” relationship came in early 1985, leading him to write several related songs on Raised on Radio.
“…I never really and truly, from the bottom of my heart, fell in love with someone like I did with Sherri…”says Steve Perry in a 1986 interview with Force, the fan club of Perry’s music. It is quite apparent that Steve Perry and Sherri Swafford were very close, and that the break-up caused a lot of heartache and pain. This is shown in most of the songs on Raised on Radio, like "Happy to Give", "It Could have been You", "Once You Love Somebody", "Positive Touch" and "I'll Be Alright Without You". The song "Happy to Give" best explains the troubling emotions that he is feeling because of his loss. Personally, Steve thinks of himself as a believer as sung in the first verse in “Happy to Give”, the sixth track of Raised on Radio. “My songs have overtones of certain truths that have been existing through time,” explains Perry in a Faces Magazine interview, “I believe in certain truths.” Furthermore in his relationship with Sherri Swafford, he entrusted her with these truths, and opened up to her – but only to be the fool in the end. Steve Perry also likes to look at life as a story or book: "Life is like a story. Every chapter-every page, is something new..." as he said in a 1984 video interview. Perry pushes this more in "Happy to Give: when he sings about "a page in a story, romance untold". As a believer, he is also a dreamer, as also sung in the first verse of “Happy to Give”. The idea that everyone has their own dreams and that they individually choose which ones to follow, is expressed when it is sung “…lonely dreamer, left to choose,”. “In the band, each one of us – Neal, Jon, Smith, and Valory-we all had to make our own personal decisions and adjust our career around them,” says Perry to Faces Magazine. Steve Perry also sings about all the promises that go undone since the break-up in "Happy to Give". These promises were made to Sherri to stay with her and love her - they could easily have been promised to each other, possibly foreseeing a marriage along the way. Obviously, now that the relationship is over, those promises are broken. "Change has forsaken, our promises..." sings Perry in "It Could Have Been You", another track on the Raised on Radio album. Repetitiously, Perry sings how the pain of heartache is like. He explains that after a person has gone you see shadows of them everywhere. If they were such a big part of your life, then they influenced everything. As long as you are being reminded of that lose, you are in pain. "That's rough. It's just something that you have to face, and it's maybe just not the right time or maybe it's not right at all," explains Steve Perry to Force, "But the hardest part is that, once you do fall in love with someone, you're there...and if you pull out, then you never were really in love with them. It makes it difficult because I deal with it on a daily basis. Not one day goes by that I'm not thinking about her or wishing I could see her, but all the while knowing that seeing each other isn't the best thing for her or me because it just stirs up some complex emotions that I'm just not wanting to look at right now." At a certain point in "Happy to Give", Perry is actually singing to Sherri, the love he lost. He asks the question that if he isn't the one who had been "happy to give" her love, then who would be? Perry says that he is and always was willing to happily giver her love without condition or circumstance. Then, he boldly states that with him is where Sherri belongs, cause he is the one who will love her as such. Although Sherri Swafford's name isn't directly said in the lyrics of the song, it is very likely that the song is related to the breakup. As a matter of fact, most of the Raised on Radio album itself has songs on it that relate to broken hearts, heartache, and the recovery of such a tragedy.