If you’ve ever listened to a classic rock radio station, you’ve heard Peter Rivera sing.
I just want to celebrate another day of living
I just want to celebrate another day of life
“I Just Want to Celebrate” was a Top 10 single in 1971 for Rare Earth, the hard-driving rock-R&B hybrid band Rivera fronted as lead singer and drummer. From 1969 to 1975, Rare Earth rode high, headlining shows at A-list venues like Madison Square Garden, with the likes of Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers and Earth Wind and Fire opening for them. The band scored several other Top 40 hits, with their cover of “Get Ready” reaching No. 4 on the Billboard charts.
Some five decades later, Rivera is still at it. He and his backing band will perform Saturday at the Historic Everett Theatre.
“This is the third time he’s been here. He always puts on a great show,” said Curt Shriner, theater manager. One of those times, Rivera opened for Mark Farner and “absolutely stole the show” from the former Grand Funk frontman, Shriner said.
Because of the pandemic, Saturday’s show will be Rivera’s first gig in a while, he told The Daily Herald in a phone call from his home in Spokane.
“We’re rehearsing (all week),” he said. “But I’m sure it’ll all come back fairly quick. It’s like a sport. You gotta warm up.”
Rivera, whose real name is Peter Hoorelbeke, grew up in Detroit in a blue-collar home. He took drum lessons at age 10, and within a year his parents had mustered together the money to buy him a drum kit.
He formed his first band at age 15, and two years later started a group called the Sunliners. By 1968, the Sunliners had rechristened themselves Rare Earth. Their club gigs in the Detroit area caught the attention of Motown Records, which was headquartered in the Motor City in those days. Motown formed a record label dedicated to white acts and signed Rare Earth to it. Then, at the band’s suggestion, Motown renamed the label Rare Earth Records.
Rare Earth wasn’t the first all-white act signed by Motown, but it was by far the most successful. Its covers of “Get Ready” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” charted higher than the Temptations’ original versions.
When Motown’s legendary founder Berry Gordy moved the label to Los Angeles in 1972, Rare Earth followed. But as the 1970s wore on, the band’s record sales slipped. Rivera blames Motown.
“Back in the 1970s, record companies would get behind the bands and promote them,” he said. “They’d pour money into the marketing. (Motown) never put that kind of money behind us.”
Naming the record label after Rare Earth was “probably the last promotion we got from them,” Rivera said.
Meanwhile, drug-fueled tensions were wracking the band, and by 1975, Rivera had had enough.
He rejoined the band in 1980.
“The drugs were gone, but there was enough money for alcohol. Some guys started drinking too much. I quit (the band) for good in 1983.”
He later performed for 17 years as the Classic Rock All Stars with Mike Pinera from Iron Butterfly.
Rivera and his wife, Dabar Hoorelbeke, moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, from Palos Verdes, California, about 20 years ago. Rivera said it was a better environment for their children, who were entering their teen years at the time. After about 10 years in Coeur d’Alene, they moved across the state line to Spokane. Dabar died in 2013, after 43 years with Rivera. He decided to stay in Spokane, where he has musician friends.
Rivera, 76, will be backed by some of those friends at the Everett show: Dave Hutchenson on bass, Joe Brash on guitar, Danny McCollim on keyboards and Jim Marsella on percussion. He said they’ll play about 18 songs, including Rare Earth hits.
Rivera has written dozens of songs since his Rare Earth days and recorded LPs and EPs of his music. But he realizes audiences want to hear “I Just Want to Celebrate” and “Get Ready.”
“I’m there to play the songs people enjoy. It’s not drudgery,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun. It’s not boring.”
Rivera is similarly philosophical about the fact that he sees very little money from Rare Earth music, even though his muscular vocals were key to the songs’ success.
“Every once in a while, I’ll get a check for something like $16.31,” he said. “Motown gets paid when the songs get used in commercials. They’re only required to give us a very small percentage. But that’s the way the world works.”
He gets energy from live performances and making new music in his home studio. The songs are available at his website, www.peterrivera.com, where he also posts podcasts reminiscing about his long career in music.
Besides, he pointed out, being a musician is the only thing he knows how to do.
“What am I going to do — get a job?” he said.
“I want to keep living. If I quit this, I’m a dead man. I’m a few steps ahead of the reaper.”
If you go
Peter Rivera and his band will perform April 24 at the Historic Everett Theatre, 2911 Colby Ave., Everett. Everett resident and renowned harmonica player Lee Oskar will make a special appearance. Bothell rock band Colossal Boss opens. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30-$35. Call 425-258-6766 or go to www.yourhet.org for more information.