Journey was right: There is a South Detroit (!)
If there’s one thing Detroiters hate — at least, some – it’s the fact Steve Perry wrote of a fictitious “South Detroit” in Journey’s 1981 earworm “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Fans at Detroit Red Wings or Tigers games love when the tune is played during commercial breaks: When it gets to The Line, they belt it. They always belt it.
It’s annoying as hell. The line generated a question that loomed for years: Just where the hell was Perry talking about? Downriver? Windsor?
In 2012, New York magazine put the issue to rest, asking Perry point blank what the deal was: He made the damn thing up amid a five-night stand in the city. From New York:
Perry, unable to sleep, stood staring out of his hotel room window at 2 a.m. “I was digging the idea of how the lights were facing down, so that you couldn’t see anything,” he says, recalling the night. “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. So Detroit was very much in my consciousness when we started writing.”
But what about South Detroit? For the love of Tim Allen, what about South Detroit? To that, Perry pleads poetic license, and ignorance, despite the fact that a quick glance at a map would have alerted him to the issue. “I ran the phonetics of east, west, and north, but nothing sounded as good or emotionally true to me as South Detroit,” he says. “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.”
Man, Steve, if only you knew how much it does matter.
Here’s the thing, though: There actually is a goddamn South Detroit – just 980 miles away from our fair city.
Tucked away in the northeast section of South Dakota lies Brown County, a 1,731 square mile plot of land with over 36,500 residents. The county, according to Wikipedia (the go-to source on Brown County, South Dakota), is divided into 44 townships — one of which is South Detroit.
According to city-data.com, 86 people live in the roughly 36 square miles of South Detroit Township, which works out to a population density of about 2 per square mile.
To celebrate this, uh, news of sorts, here’s the video for “Don’t Stop Believin’.” As always, enjoy.