Journey “Don’t Stop Believin'” Lyrics Meaning

“Don’t Stop Believin'” is a rock song by the American band Journey. It came out in October 1981 as their second single from their seventh album called Escape (1981), which was released by Columbia Records. The song has a medium tempo and is known for its catchy piano riff at the beginning.

The song’s message is about not giving up on your dreams and goals. It encourages you to keep believing in yourself, even when you encounter difficulties and hurdles.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what the lyrics of the song mean.

Inspiration Behind “Don’t Stop Believin'”

Steve Perry, in an interview with New York Magazine, shared that the song’s beginnings can be traced back to a time when he was in Detroit for some gigs. He couldn’t sleep and ended up gazing out of his hotel room window. He recalled:

“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.”

Jonathan Cain was the one who came up with the song’s title and hook. It was inspired by something his father used to say to him when he was struggling as a musician in Los Angeles. In an interview with Songfacts, he said:

“The song began with the chorus. My father had coached me. I was in Hollywood, struggling with my career, kind of lost. I was asking him, ‘Should I come back to Chicago and just give up on this dream?’ And he said, ‘No, son. Stay the course. We have a vision. It’s gonna happen. Don’t stop believin’.'”

Cain told Journey lead singer Steve Perry about his idea of placing the song on Sunset Boulevard, and Perry asked him to elaborate. Cain explained:

“I described the mix of people who gathered there on a Friday night – dreamers aspiring to be actors, producers, artists, lawyers, you name it. They all came together on a Friday night.”

“Don’t Stop Believin'” Lyrics Meaning

[Verse 1]

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

In Verse 1 of the song, it tells the story of two people:

  1. A girl from a small town who’s living in a lonely world. She decides to take the midnight train to anywhere, perhaps seeking a new adventure.

  2. A city boy who was born and raised in South Detroit. He also takes the midnight train, possibly in search of something different or exciting.

[Verse 2]

A singer in a smoky room

The smell of wine and cheap perfume

For a smile, they can share the night

It goes on and on and on and on

In Verse 2, the song describes the scene at a smoky room where a singer is performing. 

The room has a smoky atmosphere, likely filled with cigarette smoke.

There’s a distinct smell of wine and cheap perfume in the air.

People in the room are there to enjoy the singer’s performance, and they are willing to exchange smiles with each other.

The night seems endless, as the music and the atmosphere continue “on and on and on and on.”


Strangers waitin’

Up and down the boulevard

Their shadows searchin’ in the night

Streetlights, people

Livin’ just to find emotion

Hidin’ somewhere in the night

In the Pre-Chorus, the song paints a picture of the surroundings and the emotions of the people. 

It mentions “strangers waiting,” suggesting that there are unknown people gathered in the area.

These strangers are scattered along the boulevard, which is a wide street, waiting for something.

Their shadows are “searchin’ in the night,” which means they might be searching for something meaningful or exciting.

The streetlights illuminate the scene, and people are living with the hope of finding emotion or connection, even if it’s hidden in the nighttime atmosphere.

[Verse 3]

Workin’ hard to get my fill

Everybody wants a thrill

Payin’ anything to roll the dice

Just one more time

In Verse 3, the song provides details about the challenges and aspirations of life. 

The lyrics mention someone “workin’ hard to get my fill,” indicating that this person is putting in a lot of effort to achieve their goals and desires.

It talks about how “everybody wants a thrill,” suggesting that people in general seek excitement and enjoyment in their lives.

The phrase “Payin’ anything to roll the dice” implies that some people are willing to take risks or make sacrifices for a chance at something better.

The line “Just one more time” reflects the idea that people are often willing to try again, even after setbacks, in pursuit of their dreams.

[Verse 4]

Some will win, some will lose

Some are born to sing the blues

Oh, the movie never ends

It goes on and on and on and on

In Verse 4, the song reflects on the unpredictability of life and the different paths people take. 

It mentions that “Some will win, some will lose,” which means that in life, some people will succeed while others will face challenges or setbacks.

The line “Some are born to sing the blues” suggests that some people seem destined to experience hardship or difficult times.

The lyrics conclude with “Oh, the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on and on,” emphasizing that life is like an ongoing story with its ups and downs, and it continues without a definite ending.


Don’t stop believin’

Hold on to that feelin’

Streetlights, people

Don’t stop believin’

Hold on

Streetlights, people

Don’t stop believin’

Hold on to that feelin’

Streetlights, people

The Chorus repeatedly says, “Don’t stop believin’,” which encourages listeners to keep their faith and hope alive.

It tells you to “Hold on to that feelin’,” implying that the positive emotions and aspirations should be held onto and not let go.

The mention of “Streetlights, people” indicates that the song’s characters and everyone in life are interconnected, sharing the same journey and experiences.

Deeper Meaning Behind “Don’t Stop Believin'”

“Don’t Stop Believin'” is a song that reminds us to keep our dreams alive, have faith in ourselves, and stay positive in the face of uncertainty. Its popularity comes from how it connects with people from all walks of life and inspires them to keep believing, no matter where life takes them.

The characters in the song represent the everyman and everywoman, relatable to anyone who has ever dreamt of something more or found themselves at a crossroads.

The verses describe the gritty reality of life—smoky rooms, cheap perfume, and the pursuit of thrills—capturing the essence of urban living.

However, the pre-chorus introduces an element of hope as “strangers waiting” suggest that amidst the anonymity of the city, there is a shared yearning for something meaningful and emotional connection.

While the lyrics mention being “born and raised in south Detroit,” it’s worth noting that there isn’t a commonly recognized area called “South Detroit” in Detroit, Michigan. The city mainly sits on the north side of the Detroit River, with Windsor, Ontario, directly to the south.

The lead singer Steve Perry explained, “I tried north Detroit, I tried east and west, and it didn’t sound right. But ‘south Detroit’ had a beautiful ring to it. I loved how it sounded, only to later discover it’s actually in Canada.”

The lyric “streetlight people living just to find emotion” came to Perry from watching people walking the streets of Detroit at night after a show. This line signifies the shared human experience.

In the end, the song delivers the central message: “Don’t stop believin’, hold on to that feelin’.” It urges us to maintain faith in ourselves and our dreams, even in the face of adversity. 

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