“Don’t Stop Believin’” is a song by American rock band Journey, originally released as the second single from their seventh album Escape (1981). It became a number 9 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 on its original release. In the United Kingdom, the song was not a Top 40 hit on its original release; however, it reached number 6 in 2009.
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 is the best-selling digital track from the 20th century with over 7 million copies sold in the United States.
While most popular songs have a refrain that is repeated several times throughout the song, the true chorus to “Don’t Stop Believin'” (as well as first mention of its title) is not heard until the end of the song, with only 0:50 left. The song’s writers designated the musically similar sections before the chorus as the “pre-chorus.”
The song is played in the key of E major at a tempo of 118 beats per minute. The vocal range is E3–C#5. The chord progression, played by the piano in the introduction and continued throughout most of the song, is eight chords long, following an I-V-vi-IV-I-V-iii-IV progression.
The title of the song came from something keyboardist Jonathan Cain’s father frequently told him when he was a struggling musician living on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard ready to give up because he was not having success in the music industry. Each time he would call home in despair, his father would tell him, “Don’t stop believing or you’re done, dude.”
While the lyrics mention being “born and raised in south Detroit”, the area that would be considered south Detroit (or at least south of Detroit) is actually the Canadian city of Windsor. Steve Perry has said, “I tried north Detroit, I tried east and west and it didn’t sing, but south Detroit sounded so beautiful. I loved the way it sounded, only to find out later it’s actually Canada.” Detroiters often refer to the “East Side” and “West Side” of the city, but only rarely north (sometimes called “8 Mile”, after the road of the same name) or south (referred to as “Downriver” or “Mexican Town”).
In 2003, “Don’t Stop Believin'” was featured in the third season of Scrubs in the episode “My Journey.”
The song was featured in the second season of Cold Case, at the finale of the episode Schadenfreude.
In 2007, the song gained press coverage and a sharp growth in popularity for its use in the famous final scene of HBO’s The Sopranos series finale “Made in America.” Steve Perry was initially hesitant to allow the song to be used in The Sopranos but later agreed. Digital downloads of the song soared following the episode’s airing and the exposure motivated the band members to overcome the struggles they were having at the time and find a replacement lead singer after Perry’s departure.
The song was released as downloadable content for the music video game series Rock Band on March 31, 2009.
The song is referred to in the chorus of the song “This’ll Be My Year” performed by Train on their album California 37, in which Pat Monahan sings “I stopped believin’, although Journey told me ‘don’t'”.
The song has been a rallying cry for a multitude of sports teams, first by the Chicago White Sox in their successful run to the 2005 World Series, when catcher A. J. Pierzynski and teammates heard the song being sung in a bar in Baltimore. The White Sox invited former Journey lead singer Steve Perry to the team’s celebration rally, where he sang the song along with several members of the team. In 2008, in a tight battle for first place with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West, the Los Angeles Dodgers began to play “Don’t Stop Believin'” in the middle of the 8th inning at all of their home games. Subsequently, the song was played at Dodger home games throughout the 2009 season, much to the chagrin of Perry, a self-proclaimed San Francisco Giants fan.
The song also became the unofficial anthem for the Giants’ 2010 postseason, especially after local musician Ashkon created a parody version of the song following their winning the 2010 National League West Division. The song was used during the end montage following the Fox network’s coverage of the 2010 World Series, which was won by the Giants. Perry appeared in the Giants’ subsequent victory parade, and the song was played at the start of the Giants’ victory rally. Perry has appeared at several Giants home games at AT&T Park during the 2014 postseason, leading the crowd in singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” during the “8th inning sing-along” when the Giants are tied or behind in the score; when the Giants are ahead the crowd sings “Lights” instead.
The song has for years been commonly played at Detroit Red Wings hockey games; at Red Wings home games (especially during the last minutes of playoff victories), the recording is turned down during the line “born and raised in south Detroit” so the home fans can sing the line from the song. It was played at the closing ceremony of the Red Wings long-time home of Joe Louis Arena in 2017. It is also used at numerous Detroit sporting events.
Prior to the beginning of the 2014 season, Mississippi State Head Football Coach Dan Mullen asked the DJ at Davis Wade Stadium to play “Don’t Stop Believin” between the third and fourth quarters of each Bulldog home game. MSU fans immediately took to the song and began to sway and ring the cowbells that they traditionally bring to home games in sync with the beat while singing along.
“Oh, man. I love that song,” said MSU defensive end Preston Smith. “When it comes on, it gets the whole stadium going. It’s a great energy, I love it. I think I was out there in the Auburn game doing a drum solo.”
Journey’s version appears in a 2017 TV commercial for the Nissan Rogue.