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What Are “Streetlight People”? Dissecting “Don’t Stop Believing”

flickr, mrmoneda

When it comes on the jukebox, gaggles of girls scream and yell “this is my jam!” or some sort of equivalent, but I’ve always taken issue with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”. I mean, the song, in and of itself, is good. But seriously, what are ‘streetlight people”?

The people at decided to answer that question, along with where exactly Steve Perry thinks “South Detroit” is (since, geographically speaking, there is no such thing).

Now, for those of us not from the D, the song makes perfect sense. There has to be a South Detroit, I mean, it’s in a song. But, it turns out that South Detroit is about as real of a place as Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There’s an East Detroit. That would be 8 Mile, where Eminem’s from. Also, the home of Motown Records. There’s a Southwest Detroit, which apparently is where you can get some great Mexican food.

The southernmost part of Detroit is actually referred to as downtown, and directly south of that is the Detroit River. If you cross that, you’re into Canada.

Turns out, Steve Perry just picked what sounded best. He told

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.

As for the “streetlight people”,

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 ‘streelight people’ came to me.


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