My blogs have been too serious lately, so I am touching on a lighter topic – a Journey song that has proven to be far more enduring than anyone ever could have imagined.
WHY JOURNEY? Because there is so much to learn from how the song, Don’t Stop Believin’, came to be.
The WSJ had an article about the song’s origin yesterday, and it was so interesting that I had to blog about it.
The song was released in 1981 and only hit # 9 on the pop charts at the time, but it has since become “a go-to power anthem at sports events and karaoke bars worldwide. The song also crossed over to television, winding up as Tony Soprano’s jukebox choice in the final episode of “The Sopranos” in 2007 and on “Glee” two years later.”
As a side note, I hated the song when it was released because I thought it was “bubble gum rock” and because I was an ignorant teenager. 😊 I only learned to appreciate Journey at the urging of some music-major-friends and, much later, after watching some Rick Beato videos on YouTube (Rick is a musician and critic who loves Journey’s guitar player, Neal Schon).
The song was inspired by what was effectively the “life collapse” of Journey’s keyboard player, Jonathan Cain, in 1977. His music career was going nowhere; his dog got hit by a car, he needed surgery, he was flat broke, and his girlfriend who paid half the rent left him. So, he called his dad for a loan.
This is a quote from Mr. Cain: “I told [my dad] nothing was working out and that maybe I should just give up on music. He wouldn’t hear of it. He said, “Your blessing is right around the corner. Sit tight. Don’t be discouraged. And don’t come home to Chicago. Don’t stop believing.” He also said he’d send me the money.”
After the call, Mr. Cain jotted down “Don’t Stop Believin’ in his notebook as a song idea.
Motivated by his dad, Mr. Cain kept at it and joined another band (The Babys) before landing with Journey in 1980.
He then collaborated with Journey’s other members, Steve Perry in particular, and the song came to life. (How they came up with the lyrics is especially interesting, so I recommend reading the article if you get the chance; we can send excerpts to readers as well upon request).
So, what are my takeaways/lessons?
- Rock Bands = Small Businesses/Entrepreneurial Ventures. It is no coincidence that so many successful musicians also become such successful business people (Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and David Bowie are all extreme examples) because making it as a band requires so many of the same skills (on top of musicianship) that are required to make it in business. These include sales, marketing, making connections, practice, finance, finding niches, and perseverance. I remember seeing dozens of extremely talented bands from the LA music scene in the 1980s that never went anywhere because they lacked one or more of the above skills.
- Don’t Stop Believin’ = Perseverance. This is my biggest takeaway, as perseverance is probably the single most important element to making it in any type of business. Very few of us would have continued to keep on slugging it out if we were in Mr. Cain’s position in 1977.
- Collaboration. The manner in which the song came to be was another huge reminder that nobody can hit it big without the help of or feedback from others.
- Write Down Your Ideas. This too was a great reminder, and it is something many business coaches recommend strongly as well. Write down every idea you have and save it somewhere – because it will likely come in very handy at some point. (I do this every day in fact and save them to a folder on my laptop). If Mr. Cain had not saved his idea, the hit song would have never come about.
- Parental/Family Support. Without the support and encouragement of Mr. Cain’s Dad, Mr. Cain likely would have never seen such enormous success. This too was a wonderful reminder of how important family support is.
So… If you are trying to build any type of business or role within your organization, this is my reminder to Don’t Stop Believin’.
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