Don’t Stop Believin’ – the History of a Powerful, Lyrical Message

A recent interview on CBS Sunday Morning celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the rock band Journey’s perennial hit “Don’t Stop Believin’,” officially the most downloaded song ever recorded in the 20th century.

The song’s history has a message as powerful as its lyrics and is worth repeating.

“I was starving before I hit Journey,” keyboard player Jonathan Cain told CBS’s Jim Axelrod. “Very, very rough times…I didn’t know where the next pay check was gonna come. I sold stereos. I quit the business. I was so lost, you know? And I was borrowing money from my father, who wouldn’t let me come back to Chicago. He said, ‘You stay there. Something good is gonna happen. Don’t stop believing.’ And he would always say that to me. ‘Don’t stop believing, Jon.'”

The year was 1980 and everything turned around when he was asked to join Journey. Right away, Cain said he sat down with guitarist Neal Schon and then-lead-singer Steve Perry. Within an afternoon, he told CBS, his father’s advice was transformed into a rock’n’roll phenomenon that broke into the top 10 charts as a single in 1981 and then anchored Journey’s monster album “Escape.” When the band broke up six years later, it took a series of chance happenings to turn the song into the national anthem it has become today.

The first break was in 1998, when it appeared in the soundtrack of the film “The Wedding Singer,”  as a string quartet dusted off “Don’t Stop Believin’” for Adam Sandler, followed by seven other movies and more than a dozen television shows, including the cliffhanging series finale of the Sopranos.

But it was as the pilot episode’s killer closer of the TV hit show Glee in 2009 that stamped “Don’t Stop Believin’” as an all-time classic.  Adam Anders, Glee’s executive music producer, told CBS that the show’s creators originally wanted Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” to be the pilot episode’s killer closer, but were denied permission to use it. The rest, Anders says, is Glee history.

The finale to the song’s history is how Arnel Pineda, a young Philipino and the lead singer for the current evolution of Journey, has embraced the song as his own. The band spotted his performance on YouTube and offered the front singer for a Philipino band a job replacing the retiring lead singer Steve Perry. What the Journey members didn’t know was that Arnel was singing to survive. His mother died when he was just 13, after a long illness that left the family bankrupt. He ended up homeless, sleeping in a park in Manila, collecting scrap metal to scrape up enough money to eat.

“Even before I discovered ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, it has been my motto, you know, to never stop believing in myself,” Pineda told Axelrod, choking back tears. “The life that I’ve gone through. You know, all those hardships– that I– you see, I never– I never stopped believing that someday there is something magical that will happen in my life.”

“Never in my, like, entire life here on earth, that I would ever, ever stumble upon this kind of magic,” Pineda continues. “Playing to all of these people around the world… What a ride. You know?”

The constantly recycled history of this song has a unique message over a few generations now – the struggle never ends, but there are happy endings for believers who don’t give up.  A good message to take to heart.

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