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Dennis DeYoung (born February 18, 1947) is an American singer, songwriter, musician and producer best known for being a founding member of the rock band Styx as lead vocalist and keyboardist, a tenure that lasted from 1961 until June 1999. DeYoung has been credited as the writer of more Styx songs than any other Styx member.
Growing up in the Roseland area of Chicago, DeYoung started his career as a vocalist in 1961 at the age of 14 when he teamed up with his 13-year-old neighbors Chuck and John Panozzo in a three-piece combo. The trio later added guitarist James Young and John Curulewski to form the band Tradewinds in the late 1960s. The band renamed itself TW4 in 1968 before becoming Styx in 1970.
Before the band met with success, DeYoung spent time as an elementary school teacher in the southern suburbs of Chicago, where he taught music at a variety of schools. During this period, the band played a number of small venues and school auditoriums, refining their craft before the song "Lady" propelled them to national, then international, stardom.
On January 18, 1970, DeYoung married his longtime sweetheart Suzanne Feusi. The couple have two children, daughter Carrie Ann and son Matthew. Suzanne DeYoung frequently joined her husband on the road, and eventually their children came along as well, as a way to provide stability for their family.
DeYoung is an avid fan of the Chicago White Sox.
Tenure with Styx (1970–1984)
Within Styx, DeYoung acted as lead vocalist, keyboardist, accordion player, producer, and songwriter. From the start of Styx's commercial success with the 1972 DeYoung-penned single "Lady", DeYoung became the creative force behind most of the band's hit songs. DeYoung wrote and sang lead on six of the band's seven top 10 Billboard Hot 100-ranked hits during this period, with Tommy Shaw's "Too Much Time On My Hands" (#9) being the sole exception. The six DeYoung penned-and-performed Billboard hits, in order of their peak chart placement:
"Babe", the band's only #1 hit to date
"Mr. Roboto" (#3)
"The Best of Times" (#3)
"Don't Let It End" (#6)
"Lady", the band's 1972 breakthrough hit (#6)
"Come Sail Away" (#8)
A self-taught keyboardist, DeYoung quickly became one of the most notable players of that instrument in rock. Featured on the cover of the January 1981 issue of Contemporary Keyboard magazine (a story that was reprinted in Contemporary Keyboard's book on the greatest rock keyboardists), DeYoung described many of his steps along the way through his keyboard-playing career: He'd never played an acoustic piano until the recording session for 1972's "Lady"; he recorded the track for 1979's "Babe" in a friend's basement on a Rhodes electric piano he'd never touched before; the odd feeling of switching back to playing accordion for the song "Boat on the River" and discovering how small the keys felt to his fingers after years of playing electric organs and pianos.
As a keyboardist in Styx, DeYoung was best remembered for his prominent lead synthesizer solos performed on the Oberheim synthesizer that dominated the mix with a unique tone, a key element of the Styx sound. Influenced by the recent release of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's first album, DeYoung – a novice synthesizer player at the time – used a modular Moog to record the keyboard tracks for the first Styx album. This album featured a rock version of "Fanfare for the Common Man", more than 5 years before ELP came up with a similar idea of recording this classical composition as a rock band featuring the synthesizer that would later become one of ELP's best known recordings.
DeYoung's songs often had a grandiose style to them in the tradition of 1970s theatrical rock, which heavily influenced the group's direction in the late 1970s, culminating in the concept albums Paradise Theater (1981) and Kilroy Was Here (1983). The dissent of some members in the band during Kilroy brought tensions between the group's members over the future direction of the band, leading to guitarist Tommy Shaw's departure in 1984.
Early solo career (1984–1989)
With Styx in limbo following Shaw's 1984 departure, DeYoung began a solo career of modest success. His first solo album, Desert Moon (1984), generated a top 10 hit, "Desert Moon", and the follow-up single, "Don't Wait for Heroes", cracked the Billboard Top 100 as well. Desert Moon album was certified gold in Canada in 1984.
DeYoung's solo career continued with Back to the World (1986), which contained the song "This Is the Time" from the soundtrack of Karate Kid II (1986) movie, and Boomchild (1988), which received a fair amount of music video airplay.
After a five-year hiatus; DeYoung and several other members of Styx began discussing a possible reunion in 1989. By December, 1989 Styx had unofficially reformed. Tommy Shaw, who joined Damn Yankees in 1988, did not return.
Reuniting with Styx (1990–1992)
In 1990, Styx (minus Tommy Shaw, who was replaced by guitarist/singer-songwriter Glen Burtnik) returned to the studio for the album Edge of the Century (1990). "Show Me the Way", a track written by DeYoung for his son Matthew, received extensive radio play, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart (Styx's 8th top 10 single, and 7th written and sung by DeYoung) particularly after a number of radio stations mixed it with voice tracks of parents headed off to fight in the first Persian Gulf War. The group toured North America extensively before A&M Records (which had just merged with PolyGram Records) dropped the group from its roster in 1992; the group broke up again shortly afterwards.
Venture into acting (1993–1995)
Between stints with Styx, DeYoung, a devout Roman Catholic, joined a touring revival of the stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar in 1993. He appeared in about 200 performances across North America as Pontius Pilate. The experience inspired him to record his 1994 album of Broadway standards, 10 on Broadway, and to begin work on a musical of his own based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame (French Gothic novel by Victor Hugo, published in 1831).
Reuniting with Styx (1995–1999)
"Lady '95" (1995)
In 1987, A&M Records had released a compilation album of Styx tracks as volume 15 of their "Classics" series, but since A&M did not own the rights to the original recording of "Lady" (which had been released by Wooden Nickel Records through a distribution deal with RCA Records), the track could not be included on the disc. In 1995, Styx reunited, this time with Shaw, but without a terminally ill John Panozzo, who had developed cirrhosis following years of chronic alcoholism. The band recorded a new version of "Lady", which became the lead track ("Lady '95") of a new compilation album, Styx Greatest Hits, for A&M. Todd Sucherman (uncredited) provided the drum track for the recording session. Panozzo died of gastrointestinal bleeding on July 16, 1996. Sucherman took his place, and in 1996, Styx toured for the first time in four years.
"Return to Paradise" tour (1996–1997)
Styx's 1996 tour, dubbed the "Return to Paradise" tour by the band, proved remarkably successful, and a 2-disc live recording of the show (with three new studio tracks) proved even more so; 1997's Return to Paradise live album went gold and spawned a top-30 hit on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, the DeYoung-penned "Paradise". With the positive response and a new record label (CMC International), Styx returned to the studio in 1998 and began work on their first studio album in eight years.
Departure from Styx (1999)
Though DeYoung and his bandmates had been able to put aside their musical and personal differences during the "Return to Paradise" tour, those same issues resurfaced once work started on their new album, Brave New World. Complicating matters, DeYoung's physical health took a sudden turn for the worse; DeYoung said he was afflicted with a chronic fatigue syndrome -like disorder that affected his trigeminal nerve, and that he would not be able to perform onstage due to a sensitivity to bright light and sound caused by this disorder. The other four members of Styx said that the band was contractually obligated to tour in support of Brave New World album. When DeYoung reiterated his health issues would leave him unable to perform live, the other members of the band opted to replace DeYoung with Canadian star Lawrence Gowan in 1999 in order to fulfill their touring obligation.
DeYoung sued his former bandmates, seeking the rights to use the group's name in support of his solo career. The suit was settled in 2001, with the group being allowed to keep the name "Styx" and DeYoung able to use the name in descriptive phrases such as "the music of Styx" or "formerly of Styx" (but not "the voice of Styx").
Styx has consistently maintained that any chance of a reunion with DeYoung is at best unlikely. When asked about any possible reunions with DeYoung, James Young of Styx commented on an edition of American Behind the Music television series on VH1 channel about the group, "Maybe when they are playing hockey on the river Styx." Young also addressed the reunion issue on an episode of VH1's Feuds 2000, noting the possibility of a reunion would only happen "[A]s The Eagles said, 'when Hell freezes over'." Bassist Chuck Panozzo, no longer actively touring with Styx due to health issues associated with his HIV-positive status, offered a more hopeful tone to a writer doing a story on the band for tampabay.com; while reflecting on the effect the loss of his fraternal twin brother, John, had on the band, Panozzo noted, "Before any more of us die, I would hope that it could happen. Every year that it doesn't happen is another year that goes by. And if you wait too long, who will care?" But an interview Tommy Shaw gave Rolling Stone in 2011 indicated that he didn't think a reunion was realistic, noting, "We're crazy, but we're not insane."
In February 2000, DeYoung was approached to perform a concert featuring his many songs from Styx, as well as his solo works and his 1997 stage musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with an orchestra. The show, performed at the Rosemont Theatre in DeYoung's hometown of Chicago, was a family affair for DeYoung. His wife Suzanne and sister-in-law Dawn Marie Feusi sang backup, his daughter Carrie Ann was in charge of publicity, while his son Matthew designed the stage lighting. The concert was well received and formed the basis for a touring version of the show, and eventually an 2004 live album, The Music of Styx - Live with Symphony Orchestra.
Healthy once again, DeYoung returned to touring North America with a 50-piece orchestra augmented by a five-piece rock band, which included Tommy Dziallo on guitar, Hank Horton on bass, and Kyle Woodring (from John Mellencamp and Deana Carter) on drums, all of whom also played shows with DeYoung with or without the orchestra.
DeYoung made his major motion picture debut in 2005's The Perfect Man, in which he played the lead vocalist in a Styx tribute band.
In August 2006, DeYoung appeared along with Supertramp's Roger Hodgson on Canadian Idol where he performed with and mentored the contestants.
On April 20, 2006, at the Community Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, DeYoung took to the stage once again with former Styx guitarist and basist Glen Burtnik as part of his Lost Treasures concert series. It marked the first time in nearly seven years the two had appeared together. On his website, DeYoung jokingly dubbed the performances "The Denny and Glenny Show." While on stage, the duo opened with the Beatles classic "We Can Work It Out" and also performed "Watching the World Go by", and "All for Love", songs that were originally written for the unreleased Edge of the Century 2 Styx album.
On September 14 and 15, 2006, DeYoung appeared with Hal Sparks on Celebrity Duets, an American reality television show produced by Simon Cowell. They sang Styx songs "Come Sail Away" and "Mr. Roboto". DeYoung was invited back to perform on Celebrity Duets on September 28, 2006 with finalist Hal Sparks. The pair performed the Styx breakthrough hit "Lady" written by DeYoung in 1973, with DeYoung serenading his wife Suzanne in the audience while Hal did the same for his long-time girlfriend.
In 2007, DEP Records of Canada released DeYoung's stateside 2004 live CD Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx Live with Symphony Orchestra, which went on to achieve platinum status. In Canada 50,000 plus copies sold for a double CD qualifies as platinum. They also released his DVD The Rock: Symphonic Music of Styx, which went triple platinum. In addition he appeared on the Canadian reality TV series Star Académie.
On June 19, 2007, DeYoung released in Canada his fifth solo album, One Hundred Years from Now marking a return to his rock roots. The first single, the title track, was a duet with Québécois singer Éric Lapointe. The single reached #1 on the Québec Radio Single and Soundscan charts. The album was released in the U.S. on April 14, 2009 with slightly different tracks.
On New Year's Eve 2007, he performed "Mr. Roboto", "Come Sail Away" and many other Styx classics to a large audience at Victoria Park in Niagara Falls, Canada, and millions of viewers via live television on CHCH-TV Channel 11. Following his concert he did a brief live interview with CHCH-TV's Mat Hayes.
On May 8, 2008, DeYoung's musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame premiered at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre in Chicago. This production went on to win the Joseph Jefferson Award for best musical in Chicago in 2008.
On September 20, 2008, DeYoung performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame benefit concert for the John Entwistle foundation. The benefit concert was held at the Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, North Carolina and featured many other rock and roll musicians. He and his band performed many of Styx's hits.
In November and December 2008 DeYoung was a featured artist on the German Night of the Proms 20 city tour. He joined Robin Gibb, Tears for Fears, 10CC and Kim Wilde on the sold out tour. He also accompanied Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees on piano performing "How Deep Is Your Love".
On July 12, 2009, DeYoung was honored by his native city Chicago with the "Great Performer of Illinois Award". Following the award ceremony in the Frank Gehry -designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in Chicago, DeYoung and his band performed many of Styx's hits in a free concert.
On October 13, 2009, DeYoung's sound creation dubbed the "ARF 2600" was given its world premiere at the opening of The 101 Dalmatians Musical in Minneapolis, MN.
In 2010, DeYoung formed a new rock band dedicated to the music of Styx featuring new members guitarist and lead vocalist August Zadra and basist/vocalist Craig Carter. They joined with John Blasucci, Jimmy Leahey, Tom Sharpe and Suzanne DeYoung in performing Styx hits including "Renegade", "Blue Collar Man" and others as well as DeYoung's solo works.