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Rewinding the Charts: In 1981, Journey Didn’t ‘Stop’ on Its Way to No. 1

The band earned its lone No. 1 album, 'Escape,' featuring 'Don't Stop Believin',' which has become the biggest-selling digital song recorded in the '80s.

Few songs have found a second life in pop culture and perhaps even bigger relevance the second time around than Journey’s 1981 hit single, “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Nearly a quarter-century after its initial impact, the song returned to wide prominence when The Chicago White Sox adopted it as a rallying anthem during the team’s 2005 march to its first World Series victory since 1917. The song served as the closing number for both the Broadway and film versions of the musical Rock of Ages, was covered by the cast of Fox’s Glee and, most famously, played on a jukebox during the controversial final scene of the series finale of HBO’s The Sopranos in 2007.

Twenty-six years earlier, the track, co-written by lead singer Steve Perry, keyboardist Jonathan Cain and guitarist Neal Schon, enjoyed its first run of success when it became one of four hit singles from the San Francisco band’s first and only No. 1 album, Escape, which topped the Billboard 200 on Sept. 12, 1981.

Cain, who was 31 at the time (Perry and Schon were 32 and 27, respectively), tells Billboard that the tune was “inspired by a dare-to-dream idea that there’s a destination in your life greater than you can imagine, ‘on a midnight train going anywhere,’ ” a reference, of course, to the song’s lyrics.

“Don’t Stop Believin’ ” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1981, and though it wasn’t the album’s highest-charting single – “Open Arms” hit No. 2 in early 1982 – its continued relevance in the 2000s helped it become the biggest-selling digital track recorded in the 1980s, with 7.3 million downloads sold, according to MRC Data.

Although Perry left Journey in 1998 and the group has undergone numerous personnel changes, “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” remains a concert staple. The band wrapped its latest tour, a co-headlining trek with Def Leppard, in 2018, but the chances releasing a new album with Perry, or even reuniting with him, are slim, Cain told Billboard in May 2016. “We’ve got an open chair for him if he wants to sing a song [or] whatever he wants.”