As the lead singer, guitarist and chief songwriter for one of the most successful rock n' roll acts of the last four decades, multi-platinum-selling classic rockers REO Speedwagon, Kevin Cronin has led a charmed life that has seen him rise from modest, hard-working Midwestern American roots to an incredible, hit-filled career in the music industry. And with Cronin's more recent forays into television, journalism and charity work, the charismatic musician continues to show the world just how expansive and eclectic his talents are.
Cronin first joined REO Speedwagon in the early 1970s, when the band was a still playing the local Illinois circuit, struggling to make themselves known. But starting with the 1976 album R.E.O., Cronin helped to focus the band's tunes into the melodic rockers and heartfelt power ballads that launched the signature REO Speedwagon sound-the one music fans the world over have come to know and love.
Cronin and his bandmates crafted a slew of classic tracks throughout the 70s and 80s, evolving into an arena-headlining powerhouse on the strength of 13 Top 40 singles, including the #1 hits "Can't Fight This Feeling," "Time for Me to Fly" and "Keep On Loving You," as well as the favorites "Roll With the Changes," "Keep Pushin'," "Riding the Storm Out" and "Take It On the Run," among others. Their smash 1981 album, Hi Infidelity, reached #1 on the Billboard charts with nine-times-platinum sales. Throughout their career, the band has produced 17 critically acclaimed albums, 11 of which have achieved gold or platinum status. And despite the ups and downs of the ever-changing music industry, REO Speedwagon-with Cronin at the helm-continues to steer its way across the U.S. and the world, having toured every year since the band's 1971 inception, both in major concert markets as well as in small town America, where the band often returns to the roots of its core fanbase
Since the turn of the millennium, the band has been riding the wave of a renewed interest in their work, beginning in the spring of 2000 when the band joined forces with fellow Midwest rockers Styx for a national, sold-out, co-headlining tour that was recorded live for release as the Arch Allies CD and DVD. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Cronin helped spearhead REO and Styx's efforts to organize a series of concerts that benefited the New York Port Authority Police and the families of the officers who tragically lost their lives. The two bands subsequently appeared together on the Today show, VH1, and on numerous syndicated radio shows, including The Howard Stern Show, before joining up again-this time with fellow rock legends Journey-for 2003's "Main Event Tour," a sold-out, critically-acclaimed arena tour of all the markets that they had been entertaining since the late '70s.
During this time, Cronin became a recognizable face to a whole new generation through several notable TV appearances, beginning when REO Speedwagon was honored with a Behind the Music special on VH1. As a guest panelist on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, Cronin stood out with his astute and pointed commentary; and later, coming in a close second place as a contestant on Rock 'n Roll Jeopardy, showed both his sharp intelligence and a dedication to charitable causes.
With a current lineup that includes Cronin (lead vocals, guitar), Bruce Hall (bass), Neal Doughty (keyboards), Dave Amato (lead guitar) and Bryan Hitt (drums), REO Speedwagon rolled out yet again in 2007 with a brand new album, Find Your Own Way Home, their first collection of new material in more than a decade. The album's first single, the emotionally-charged power ballad "I Needed to Fall," grabbed listeners with lyrical themes inspired by Cronin's very personal family struggles, culled from the journey through--and emergence from-some of the darkest yet most uplifting experiences of Cronin's life.
Cronin's brave decision to take these dark troubles public was explained in a lengthy and eloquent editorial published in the May 5, 2008 issue of Newsweek.
The harrowing, yet ultimately uplifting, self-penned essay, "You Need to Fall to Rise," chronicled the drug addiction and eventual recovery of Cronin's beloved son, Paris, in the hope that other parents could benefit from sharing in the lessons of the Cronin family's story.
With Paris now dedicated to his 12-step program, his proud father is fully supportive of Paris' efforts in working with the MusiCares Foundation, which provides recovery for the music community. In fact, Cronin's March 2008 appearance on the hit TV game show Don't Forget the Lyrics led to the generous donation of his winnings to MusiCares.
Cronin and his REO mates had an interesting resurgence again in 2008 from an unlikely source: the band's hit "Can't Fight This Feeling" was featured in the top-grossing animated movie version of the Dr. Seuss children's classic Horton Hears a Who, with the entire cast singing the unforgettable tune's chorus along with film leads Jim Carrey and Steve Carell. The song placement led in turn to Cronin's appearance on an episode of American Idol, which showcased Cronin's singular voice, winning personality and easygoing attitude in front of the camera as he met with the 12 Idol finalists at the Horton movie premiere.
In May 2008, REO Speedwagon performed a live concert on The Early Show on CBS for the people of Greensburg, Kan. -- the tiny town that was all but destroyed by a massive tornado on May 4, 2007. The show was part of the broadcast's weeklong series, "Tragedy to Triumph: Greensburg Rising," which marked the one-year point in the town's rebuilding efforts.
Stressing the importance of family in his life, even as he continues touring the globe and appearing on screens big and small, Cronin and his wife Lisa continue to enjoy a close relationship with son Paris as well as 11-year-old daughter Holly and eight-year-old twins, Josh and Shane. And as always, Cronin is riding with REO Speedwagon again in the summer of 2008, as they bring their signature sound wherever their fans demand it.