Journey, ‘Don’t Stop Believin” – Lyrics Uncovered
As Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ continues to make an impact on pop culture, with younger generations still discovering the classic rock favorite for the first time, former lead singer Steve Perry admits that he fudged one minor detail in the lyrics.
Perry starts the song by singing about a young couple from very different backgrounds:
"Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world / She took the midnight train goin' anywhere / Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit / He took the midnight train goin' anywhere."
While the imagery of the boy's locale certainly helps set the proper scene for the rest of the story, there is in fact no “South Detroit” in the real life Motor City.
Vulture dug deeply into the zip code in an attempt to make some sense of the lyrical oddity. For some additional research on the issue, they decided to go directly to Perry himself to find out what was going on in his noggin at the time that he wrote the song with fellow Journey members Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon.
He explains that the seeds for the song's famous chorus were planted while Journey was on tour in 1980 promoting their ‘Departure’ album. The band was in Detroit for a five night stand and Perry found himself in a hotel room unable to sleep, staring out of the window:
"Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard / Their shadows searching in the night / Streetlights people, living just to find emotion / Hiding, somewhere in the night."
“I was digging the idea of how the lights were facing down, so that you couldn’t see anything. All of a sudden I’d see people walking out of the dark, and into the light. And the term ‘streetlight people’ came to me. So Detroit was very much in my consciousness when we started writing.”
The Detroit reference was an easy nod for Perry to put into the song and he wasn’t overly concerned with being geographically accurate.
“I ran the phonetics of east, west, and north, but nothing sounded as good or emotionally true to me as South Detroit. The syntax just sounded right. I fell in love with the line. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve learned that there is no South Detroit. But it doesn’t matter.”
‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ has been downloaded nearly 4.5 million times (legally) so far, so we’re inclined to agree with Perry that it doesn’t matter – it’s just a great song!