NEW YORK — The songwriters of Journey’s power ballad “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” were “jumping up and down” when they learned a few weeks ago that it had been licensed for use in the final episode of “The Sopranos.”
But even they couldn’t believe how integral it would be to one of the most memorable final scenes in television history.
“It was better than anything I would have ever hoped for,” says Jonathan Cain, Journey’s keyboard player, who watched at home with his wife and family.
Tony Soprano chose the song after flipping through a jukebox at a New Jersey restaurant where he dined with his family. The song played in the background as ominous characters flitted about, and right as Steve Perry was singing “don’t stop,” the HBO series did exactly that — for good. The ending infuriated some fans, amused others and intrigued all.
Mr. Cain, who wrote the song with Mr. Perry and Neal Schon, didn’t know how it would be used when they agreed to the licensing. Mr. Cain kept the fact that it was going to used at all a secret, then watched the episode with his family.
“I didn’t want to blow it,” he says. “Even my wife didn’t know. She looked at me and said, ‘You knew that and you didn’t tell me?’ ”
Journey released the song in 1981, and it reached No. 9 on the singles chart. It has taken on a life of its own since then, often reflecting the attitude people had toward Journey itself. “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” brings back fond memories for many and is unbearably cheesy for others.
It’s easy to imagine Tony Soprano, back in the day, taking a young Carmella to a Journey concert.
David Chase, creator of “The Sopranos,” has an eclectic musical taste. He has curated two songtrack albums for his series and made music a key part of the stories, particularly as the ending credits rolled. It’s possible “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” was part of the elaborate inside joke he made of the final episode.
It’s also possible he found the end of the last verse too hard to resist: “Some will win, some will lose,” Mr. Perry sings. “Some were born to sing the blues. Oh, the movie never ends. It goes on and on and on and on … ”
“Don’t Stop Believin’ ” has been featured in several television and movie scenes. It crept onto an ITunes top 10 list when, during the same week, it was on Fox’s “Family Guy” and in a romantic scene on MTV’s “Laguna Beach.”
Sports teams have adopted it, too. After the Chicago White Sox used it in 2005, Mr. Perry sang it at the parade to celebrate the team’s World Series victory.
Mr. Cain, who has a 13-year-old and 11-year-old twins, says the songwriters are careful about how they license the song and have resisted several advertising campaigns. They debated its use in the film “Monster” with Charlize Theron but, in the end, “she’s too cute to say no to,” he says.
He was a little nervous Sunday when, as he watched with his children, mob boss Phil Leotardo was shot and viewers heard his head crunch as it was run over by a sport utility vehicle — but he loved the final scene.
“It was very smart writing,” Mr. Cain says. “I always love movies where you don’t see the guy whacked. You wonder whether he’s going to get whacked.”