As the founding member of Styx, Dennis DeYoung was its lead singer from 1972 until 1999. During this time, the Chicago-based band was at its most active as a rock band. Most of Styx’s top ten singles came from DeYoung during this time period as its primary songwriter. Born on February 18, 1947, Dennis DeYoung grew up in Chicago, Illinois, where he had the twin brothers of Chuck and John Panozzo as his neighbors. As teenagers, they teamed up in a musical act known as The Trade Winds. At the time, he played the accordion as he and his bandmates entertained the audience as a three-man band. In 1964, it became a four-man act that would go through a few lineup and band name changes before settling on Styx in 1972. By this time, John Curulewski and James Young were already in the lineup as guitarists. It would be these men who’d perform together as Styx until Curulewski left after the 1975 completion of Equinox so he could spend more time with his family. He was replaced by Tommy Shaw.
In addition to playing the accordion, DeYoung also taught himself how to play the piano. This skill set came in handy as a keyboardist that would go down in history as one of the greatest to rock the music scene. His niche as a rocker was a stark contrast to the theatrical rock that flooded the radio with its theme. Going into 1981’s Paradise Theatre and 1983’s Kilroy Was Here, the musical style of Styx focused heavily on synthesized sounds that were influenced by DeYoung’s role as its primary producer and songwriter. For Tommy Shaw, Styx’s musical direction at this time didn’t quite sit well with him. As a result, he left the band so he could move on as a solo artist. This prompted Dennis DeYoung to do the same as well. It wouldn’t be until 1990 that DeYoung would reunite with his bandmates to put Styx back on track as a recording artist. Shaw, however, opted not to return to the lineup.
Letting it End
Even though Styx was back together as a group, DeYoung still pursued his solo career. Along the way, Tommy Shaw had returned to the lineup as well. In 1998, Styx began working on Brave New World before DeYoung met with a medical condition that caused some complications. Upon completion of the album, Tommy Shaw and James Young wanted to go on tour but DeYoung was in no shape as his body was still in recovery. Instead of waiting, the two replaced him with Lawrence Gowan so that they could go on tour as they had scheduled. When these men went on tour, they did so in a manner that rubbed DeYoung the wrong way. It was enough to file a lawsuit that met with a settlement agreement that Styx was able to continue without DeYoung in the lineup. As for DeYoung, he was still able to keep performing his Styx material but as a separate entity such as Music of Styx. On June 5, 2022, he and his former Styx bandmates were inducted into the Illinois Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When asked about potential reunions, neither Dennis DeYoung nor Tommy Shaw admitted this would be a likely event. The height of Styx’s success as a group spanned from 1977 until 1983. 1977’s The Grand Illusion, 1978’s Pieces of Eight, 1979’s Cornerstone, and 1981’s Paradise Theatre each became at least triple platinum by the certification process issued by the Recording Industry Association of America. Styx became the first band in history to have four consecutive albums earn this achievement in rock history. With DeYoung in the lineup, Styx recorded and released a total of thirteen studio albums. After his 1999 departure, the group recorded four more.
Top 10 Dennis DeYoung Styx Songs
#10 – A.D. 1928/Rockin’ the Paradise
1981’s Paradise Theatre featured Dennis DeYoung’s song, “A.D. 1928/Rockin’ the Paradise.” On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, it peaked as high as number eight. These two tracks acted as one with “A.D. 1928” running as a piano solo by DeYoung that’s set to the same melody as “The Best of Times.” It then breaks into “Rockin’ the Paradise” as a motivational song for Americans to jump back into that pioneering spirit that made the nation great to begin with. At the time, DeYoung observed the United States of America seemed to have lost its way not long after the conclusion of World War II. The desire to go back to how things were before commercialization and modernization was heard loud and clear by a rock group that simply wanted to go back to an era where the world was still fun.
#9 – Suite Madame Blue
From Styx’s fifth studio album, Equinox, “Suite Madame Blue” was a song that came to Dennis DeYoung as an inspiration. The United States of America was approaching its bicentennial celebration in 1976, prompting the primary songwriter of Styx at that time to come up with something he needed to sing about as an artist. However, “Suite Madame Blue” was not a song to celebrate the event. It was performed as a concern for what he felt was a nation becoming too vain and prideful for its own good. Among fans who were in agreement, this song was something they could relate to. As today’s political division among the population continues to rage on, “Suite Madame Blue” has since taken on a more direct meaning among fans who find DeYoung’s song is just as relevant today as it was nearly half a century ago.
#8 – Lorelei
In 1976, “Lorelei” was released as a single that became a number twenty-seven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, it became Styx’s first top-ten hit as it peaked as high as number six. Written and sung by Dennis DeYoung from Styx, “Lorelei” was the subject of a man’s desire to spend some intimate time with her. Aware of various mythological beliefs, DeYoung’s “Lorelei” shared a similar story to a siren living in Germany’s Rhine River. According to legend, she committed suicide after her lover didn’t return to her. As a spirit lurking in the area, she lured in sailors so they could experience the same fate as hers.
#7 – Lady
“Lady” was a single by Styx that was released in 1973 with Dennis DeYoung as the lead singer. From the album, Styx II, “Lady” originally started out as a local fan favorite in Chicago, Illinois. It wouldn’t be until the group moved to a bigger label, A&M Records, that “Lady” received the attention it deserved to become a nationwide hit. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number six. It also became a top twenty hit in Canada and New Zealand. Written by DeYoung, “Lady” was a love ballad he wrote for his wife, Suzanne Feusi. The two met in high school which led to the two marrying each other in 1970. At first, DeYoung wrote this song on a keyboard with the intent to record it on an electric piano. However, after trying it on an acoustic piano, he found he preferred this sound over what he had previously.
#6 – Don’t Let It End
From Kilroy Was Here, “Don’t Let it End” was a ballad written and sung by Styx’s Dennis DeYoung. Released as a single in 1983, it became one of the band’s greatest hits of all time. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number six hit. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, it peaked as high as number thirteen. In Canada, it was a number nine hit. This ballad featured DeYoung pleading with his love interest to let him back into her life after already experiencing their first breakup. Among the old-school Styx fans, it was DeYoung back in fine form as a romantic songwriter. It also won over the hearts of a younger audience who favored the new music that was coming from a band that already enjoyed a decade’s worth of rock music success.
#5 – Show Me the Way
In 1990, “Show Me the Way” became a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Edge of the Century was the album that it came from with Dennis DeYoung as the singer and songwriter. It also became the group’s final top-ten hit. As a Catholic, Dennis DeYoung wrote this power ballad for his son, Matthew. It was his approach to illustrate the importance of looking to a higher authority that doesn’t rely on the world’s whims for guidance.
#4 – Mr. Roboto
One of the biggest cult classics that fueled the concept of robotic-like musical characters in the 1980s was “Mr. Roboto.” Released as a single in 1983, Dennis DeYoung wrote and sang one of Styx’s signature hits that also became one of their most aggressive. Sticking to the theme of the album, Kilroy Was Here, Robert Orin Charles Kilroy was the man inside the shell of Mr. Roboto. As a whole, Kilroy Was Here was treated as an opera that laid out a full storyline. In Canada, “Mr. Roboto” became a number-one hit. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number three.
What this song did was start a popular catchphrase, “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.” This was used in a series of movie and television programs over the years that wound up immortalizing this song. Upon the timing of its release, Styx ventured into a synth-heavy musical style that didn’t sit so well with their older fans. It did, however, resonate with a younger generation that found themselves eager to hear more from the boys from Chicago. It was enough to become certified gold with Music Canada and the Recording Industry Association of America.
#3 – The Best of Times
“The Best of Times” became a number-one hit in Canada after it was released as a single in 1981. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number three. This song was instrumental in the success of Paradise Theatre becoming triple platinum. Written and sung by Dennis DeYoung while he was still with Styx, the title of the song was a contrast to its lyrics, which focused on the worst of times, not the best. The song started off with a 1928 intro before finishing with a 1958 farewell. In that time span, the Great Depression that gripped the nation took place, as well as the dramatic events of World War II. As horrible as those two experiences were, they did bring forth a surge of music that would ultimately serve as the best part of American history.
#2 – Babe
On the US Billboard Hot 100, along with several other official music charts located in many nations, “Babe” became a number-one hit after it was released as a single in 1979. From Cornerstone, this became Styx’s most successful hit yet. It was one of many love songs Dennis DeYoung wrote and sang for his wife, Suzanne Feusi. It was his birthday present to her, celebrating what was now nine years of marriage at that time. This wonderful ballad about the separation of two people earned a 1980 People’s Choice Award for Best Song. It also became certified gold with Music Canada and the Recording Industry Association of America. “Babe” was also certified silver with the British Phonographic Industry as Styx’s first and only major hit to win over the UK-based fans. It charted as high as number six there.
#1 – Come Sail Away
On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Come Sail Away” became a number eight hit after it was released as a single in 1977. In Canada, it peaked as high as number nine. As a songwriter, Dennis DeYoung often addressed his high school sweetheart, Suzanne Feusi. This song was no different as he, along with Styx, invited her to join him on a metaphorical journey filled with hopes and dreams of an awesome journey together. It was a hit as a power ballad at the time and remains most Styx fan’s favorite song today.
Top 10 Dennis DeYoung Styx Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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