Journey songwriter Jonathan Cain says Jesus saved him from 2 near-death encounters

Jonathan Cain
Jonathan Cain of the rock band Journey, participates in a panel during the PBS sessions at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California, on Aug. 6, 2013. |

Journey songwriter Jonathan Cain, the man behind the hit song "Don't Stop Believin,'" recently discussed how two near-death experiences influenced his Christian faith. 

In a video posted to YouTube last week by the Christian nonprofit I Am Second, the 72-year-old artist discussed his faith story, including how his father was a devout Christian. 

“I would go to church with him and watch him pray. And he would pray so fervently, and the tears would come down his cheeks. And I wanted that so badly, and I said, ‘Can I go with you to Jesus?’ And he said, ‘You have to get your own walk with Jesus. Get your own relationship, Jon,’” Cain recounted. 

As he moved forward in the early stages of his relationship with Jesus, Cain talked about two near-death experiences he had as a child. 

The first was when Cain nearly drowned on a family trip in Arkansas after he stepped into a large hole in the bottom of a lake. 

While struggling to survive, the songwriter recalled a hand pulling him out of the water, and he was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“I said to my parents, ‘I nearly died and it was only because of God, I'm here,’” said Cain. "It was also a wake-up call that God was preparing me to face life. You know, like this is not going to be easy.”

The second near-death experience came in 1958 when the Catholic school he was attending burned to the ground, killing over 90 kids and three nuns. 

“There was a terrible fire that broke out. … I was in third grade. And I watched 92 children die right next to the house of God and three nuns. And I felt just so lost,” Cain recounted. 

Despite being grateful for making it out untouched by the flames, Cain said that following the incident, for the first time in his life, he experienced a glimpse of doubt.    

“I wondered what happened that day. … [There] was a big question [in my mind], ‘Did Jesus abandon us that day? What happened?’” he said.  

Witnessing his son wrestling with faith prompted Cain’s father to take action. The artist shared how his father encouraged him to pursue music, the outlet that would take him full circle back to Jesus.

“[My father] led me straight to music. He said … ‘Son, you were saved for something greater and that must be music.’ He got me straight to music school. And music seemed to be a redemption for me. I was able to set myself free,” Cain said. 

Cain, who is married to televangelist Paula White-Cain, said his musical gifts landed him a spot in the band The Babies, which allowed him to co-write many songs for the 1980s Union Jacks record

“My father, he always said, every time I had something great happen ... ‘This is just a stepping stone to something greater, child.’ [And I would ask], ‘What do you mean Dad, [by] just a stepping stone?’ My dad wasn’t impressed. He goes, ‘This isn’t it. There's something else coming,’” Cain said.  

Never forgetting his father’s remarks, Cain joined the famous rock band Journey in 1973, serving in various roles, including writer, keyboardist and vocalist. 

Before joining Journey, Cain went through a difficult stage where he contemplated giving up music. He shared how, early on, he struggled to pay his bills as he pursued his dream.

“I had to call [my father] and I hated asking him for money. But, I said, ‘Dad, I just wonder, should I give up on this music dream and come home to Chicago and forget about it?’” Cain recounted. 

“And there was silence for a minute. And then [my father] said: ‘John, this is your vision. No. You're not coming home. Stay the course. Don't stop believing.’”

Following his discussion, Cain said he put pen to paper, immediately writing what his father had told him in a small lyric book. The words later became the basis for the 1981 hit song, “Don’t Stop Believin.'”  

“It wasn't until five years later, [Journey lead singer] Steve Perry looked at me and said, ‘You got another song?’ And I said, ‘Well, let me look in my book.’ And sure enough, there's what Dad had said,” Cain said.  

“I wrote a melody to have 'a city boy and a small town girl on a midnight train going anywhere.’ I came in the next day, and it was history. I believe that is what got us into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. ... Thank you, Dad.” 

When his father died years later, Cain recalled hearing the voice of God as he was weeping at a piano and realized that he should have been thanking God for his music. 

“I didn't think I would be able to carry on. I always wrote for him. …  I said, 'Everything I did, every note I played, I can trace back to my father.’ And then, God, His voice came to me. … ‘No, John, it has been Me. It's Me, John. It's always been Me through him. But, I am the source. I am where it comes from,’” Cain said. 

“And I went, ‘Oh man. How did I miss that? … So You were the Guy in the room when I wrote ‘Faithfully.’ 'I'm forever yours, Lord, faithfully,’” said Cain, citing the lyrics to another notable song of his. 

While most known for his secular music, in 2016, Cain released a Christian album, What God Wants to Hear, with songs that focused on his faith journey.  

"God has provided true musical and spiritual restoration," said Cain in an interview with The Christian Post at the time.

"Journey will continue to tour and I hope the Lord will inspire me to continue to make new music again with this iconic band of rock and roll. For now, I remain His humble servant and continue to serve Him in my new ministry."

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