Dennis DeYoung (born February 18, 1947, Chicago, Illinois) is an American singer, songwriter, musician and producer best known for being a founding member of the rock band Styx, a tenure which lasted from 1970 to 1999.
Growing up in the Roseland neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, DeYoung's career as a vocalist started in 1963 at the age of 16 when he teamed up with his 15 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.
On January 18, 1970, DeYoung married his longtime sweetheart, Suzanne Feusi, to whom he is still married. The couple have two children, Carrie Ann and Matthew. Unlike many musical families, the growing family toured together throughout DeYoung's career in order to provide stability for the couple's young children.
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 Springfield School in Midlothian, Illinois. 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.
Tenure with Styx
Within Styx, DeYoung acted as lead vocalist, keyboardist, accordion player, producer, writer and creative force behind many of the band's hit songs. 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 1972s "Lady"; he recorded the track for 1979s "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. DeYoung pioneered the use of synthesizers in rock and roll. 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 Theatre (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.
With Styx in limbo following Shaw's 1984 departure, DeYoung began a solo career of modest success. His first solo album, Desert Moon, generated a top 10 hit, "Desert Moon", and the follow-up single, "Don't Wait For Heroes", cracked the Billboard Top 40 as well. Desert Moon was followed by albums Back to the World (1986) and Boomchild (1988). Desert Moon was certified gold in Canada in 1984.
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. "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. This success made the band one of only a handful of bands/artists to have a top ten single under four different Presidents in the United States. 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.
Between stints with Styx in 1993, DeYoung, a devout Roman Catholic, joined a touring revival of the stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar. 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.
Styx reunited once more in 1995, this time including Shaw but minus a terminally ill John Panozzo (who died a short time later in July 1996), and recorded a new version of the DeYoung-penned "Lady" for their 1995 Styx Greatest Hits album. The group toured in 1996 and 1997, and returned to the recording studio in 1998 to begin work on Brave New World, their first studio album in nearly a decade.
Departure from Styx to current
Creative differences between the band members, and a chronic fatigue syndrome-like disorder affecting DeYoung's trigeminal nerve???which left him overly sensitive to bright light and sound, making performing on stage nearly impossible???led to DeYoung being replaced by Canadian star Lawrence Gowan in 1999. A lawsuit between DeYoung and his former bandmates 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"). When asked about any possible reunions with DeYoung, James Young of Styx commented on an edition of Behind the Music "maybe when they are playing hockey on the river Styx" and on an episode of VH1's Feuds 2000 "as The Eagles said 'when Hell freezes over'". However, in 2007, when asked about the possibility of DeYoung returning to Styx, Chuck Panozzo told tampabay.com, "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?"
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 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.
On April 20, 2006, at the Community Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, DeYoung took to the stage once again with former Styx member 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 album.
On September 14 and 15, 2006, DeYoung appeared with Hal Sparks on Celebrity Duets, a show produced by Simon Cowell. They sang "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.
On June 19, 2007, DeYoung released in Canada, One Hundred Years from Now, his fifth solo album, which marks a return to his rock roots. The first single, the title track, is a duet with Qu?ęb?ęcois singer ??ric Lapointe. The single reached #1 on the Qu?ębec 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 classics to a large audience at Victoria Park in Niagara Falls, Canada, and millions of viewers via live television on CHTV Channel 11. Following his concert he did a brief live interview with CHTV's Mat Hayes.
On May 8, 2008, a DeYoung-written musical of The Hunchback of Notre Dame premiered at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre in Chicago.
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.
On July 12, 2009, DeYoung was honored by his native Chicago with the "Great Performer of Illinois Award." Following the award ceremony in the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavillion in Millennium Park in Chicago, DeYoung and his band performed many of Styx's hits in a free concert.