How a tragic school fire led Jonathan Cain’s journey to music

Jonathan Cain was nine years old when a fire broke out on Dec. 1, 1958, at Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago, which he attended.

The fire started in the basement of one of the buildings and had spread uncontrollably within an hour, leaving children and teachers stranded in different parts of the campus. Once the fire was out, it was clear that the number would be shocking. A total of 92 children and three nuns died as a result of the incident, either from the fire itself, heat, smoke inhalation, or from injuries sustained when they jumped from the second floor windows. Cain managed to escape the building.

The day started normally. “The first morning of December seemed like any other cold and crisp morning in the Chicago area,” Cain later wrote in his 2011 autobiography, Don’t Stop Believin’: The Man, the Band and the Song That Inspired Generations. “I wore my favorite jacket to school, the brown leather bomber jacket with dad’s army patches sewn on the shoulders and chest.”

A few hours later, Cain struggled to find his friends amidst the chaos. Even at such a young age, the future Trip keyboardist said he couldn’t fathom how such a tragedy could come out of nowhere.

“My idyllic life filled with friends and Italians and music and love was suddenly interrupted by this silence — a silence that held no answers,” Cain wrote. “I wanted the darkness to go away, but I knew the soot stain would forever be branded on my soul.”

Afterwards, Cain’s father steered him towards music and encouraged him to find gratitude in having survived. “My father saw my grief immediately and led me straight to music,” Cain said in the 2022 film, I am second. “He told me, ‘Son, your life was saved for something greater, and it has to be music’.”

Cain eventually enrolled at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, where he slowly developed his skills as a musician and songwriter. He still had his share of struggles, and when he called his father for advice, he offered him three words: “Don’t stop believing.”

Cain wrote down the words, they would come in handy a few years down the road.

Legends who never had a no. 1 Single

It is all the more surprising when you consider the success that so many of them had by any other measure.

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