“Don’t Stop Believin’” is a song by American rock band Journey. Released in October 1981 it was the 2nd single from the studio album, Escape (1981). “Don’t Stop Believin'” was written by the band’s vocalist Steve Perry, guitarist Neal Schon, and keyboardist Jonathan Cain. A mid-tempo rock anthem, “Don’t Stop Believin'” is memorable for its distinctive opening keyboard riff.
To prepare for writing its next effort, Journey rented a warehouse in Oakland, California, where they worked daily to complete arrangements and develop new ideas. Jonathan Cain, joining from the Babys and therefore the band’s newest member, developed the song’s title and hook; it came from something his father often told him when he was struggling as a musician living on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard. Cain was unsuccessful and ready to give up, and each time he would call home in despair, his father would tell him, “Don’t stop believing or you’re done, dude.” One time in particular, In a down moment, he was going to give up and return to Chicago, but his father, during a phone call, offered financial help as he needed it and told him to keep on going, don’t give up that his break was around the corner.
The thought was of a story of two people leaving behind past lives in their hometown and boarding a midnight train to anywhere else. Perry liked the concept that the characters be a girl from a small town and a boy raised in the city. “We felt that every young person has a dream and sometimes where you grow up isn’t where you’re destined to be,” Cain said. The song was built backwards, as the title hook were the only lyrics the band had developed initially.
The band recorded the power ballad at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California. Altogether, the song and its corresponding album came together under its budget and in about 2 months. Cain was grateful that Perry gave his ideas equal weight given his status as a new member of the band.
Mike DeGagne of AllMusic has described “Don’t Stop Believin'” as a “perfect rock song” and an “anthem”, featuring “one of the best opening keyboard riffs in rock.” It was ranked #133 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is the best-selling digital track from the 20th century, with over 7,000,000 copies sold in the US.
“Don’t Stop Believin'” is a unique song for the time, as it’s chorus only comes at the end, with an intended structure that would captivate and finally satisfy; it was effectively described and a tension and release, tension and release type of song.
The characters in the song were inspired by a sleepless night in Detroit, staring down from a hotel room towards the streetlights on Sunset Boulevard and all the people that would come and go in that light; as Jon Cain said: “All the dreamers that had dreams to become actors. Producers, artists, lawyers, anything… they were all there on a Friday night.” In the end, he was one of them.
The song has for years been commonly played at Detroit Red Wings home games. During the last minutes of playoff victories, the volume is lowered during the “born and raised in south Detroit” line, which is instead sung by home fans. It is also used at other Detroit sporting events.
The song is played during the 8th inning of every San Francisco Giants home game. Steve Perry is a Giants season ticket holder and memorably led the crowd in the song during a game in the World Series in 2014.
The song got a boost when it was used as the closing number in Rock of Ages, a jukebox musical featuring hits of the ’80s. The show ran on Broadway from 2009 to 2015, and in 2012 was made into a movie starring Tom Cruise. Many movies and shows used the song giving it repeated boosts throughout the years, making it known to new generations and bringing “Don’t Stop Believin'” out of nostalgia soundtracks to contemporary.
The song reached #8 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart, and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It sold over 1,000,000 copies in vinyl. It is the best-selling digital song from a pre-digital-era, and it was also the best-selling rock song in digital history until 2014. “Don’t Stop Believin'” has entered other charts across the world in recent years, following a gain in popularity. In Ireland, the song peaked at #4, at #25 in Sweden, and at #50 in the Dutch charts.
In 2021, the song received the Grammy Hall of Fame award.
The song was released in the UK in December 1981 and peaked only at #62. On November 1, 2009, following a performance on The X Factor, “Don’t Stop Believin'” re-entered the chart peaking at #19 a week later. On December 20 that year, “Don’t Stop Believin'” re-entered the chart at #9 after the song was performed again on The X Factor. The song remained in the top 10 for another 7 weeks in 2010, hitting a peak of #6 in the process.
In September 2014, the Official Charts Company listed the song as having sold 1,000,000 copies in the UK.
They 1st made a very simple and basic video for the song, and later made an improved one with footage from a Houston performance on their Escape tour, which became the official video, 4 minutes long. However, neither video achieved much success on MTV, which preferred concept videos. On YouTube, at the time of writing, it has almost 165 million views.