By Christopher Saudino
It’s not every day you get to see someone who helped shape American music, but that is what Paramount audience members will get to do when Dennis DeYoung, former lead singer and founding member of the band Styx, comes to Huntington Saturday, July 19.
DeYoung wrote eight of Styx’ top-10 singles, boasts a chart-rocking solo career, and led Styx through four consecutive triple platinum albums. The rock band, which reached the height of its popularity in the ’70s and ’80s, is the only group in history to complete such a feat.
DeYoung said he learned many lessons during the group’s 22-year run, and explained how songs can grow and develop their own identities and profoundly affect the singers and audience.
“I lived at the greatest time in the history of man to be a musician,” DeYoung said. “I was lucky to live then; the radio was still in its infancy, and Styx was a part of that.”
Now on tour as a solo artist, DeYoung said he continues to be amazed by the loyalty of diehard fans and the interest of young people in his shows.
“There are young people that come to these because they feel that they missed something. There’s always a nostalgia, a feeling that you’ve missed. It was the best time to live if you’re interested in music. They come to see me because they liked that music. It had a lasting quality,” he said.
In 1983, Styx ended its legendary two-decades-long run, and members parted ways. DeYoung and other band members led successful solo careers, and often get together for reunion tours.
DeYoung spoke on the stress and relationships his longlasting band.
“When it comes to bands, human nature is always at the forefront,” DeYoung said. “It’s a miracle bands stay together for as long as they do. People feel differently and act differently.”
At The Paramount, DeYoung will play the greatest hits from Styx and his solo album, “Desert Moon.” Among the hits audience members will hear will be “Lady,” “Come Sail Away,” “Best of Times,” “Show Me the Way,” “Mr. Roboto,” “Don’t Let it End,” and the chart-topping 1979 Peoples Choice Award winner, “Babe.”
“Mr. Roboto I was proud to be a part of,” DeYoung said. “It had to overcome such incredible obstacles. It has managed to weasel its way into pop culture and pop consciousness. It’s a love-hate kind of a song. It’s managed to survive all that. When I play it people go nuts.”
The resurrection of “Mr. Roboto,” DeYoung said, is a joy to him.
“It’s a little train that could. It has the most different kinds of renditions. Everybody you know has a version. It’s like, ‘Holy cow, how did this happen?’ It’s a joy because it’s unexpected,” the singer said.
He was especially surprised when Kunio Kato, the Japanese animator and Oscar winner for Best Animated Short Film ended his short acceptance speech with, “Domo Arigoto Mr. Roboto.”
“I nearly fell off my couch,” DeYoung recalled.
He said the song most important to him is “Show Me the Way,” growing solemn as he explained it.
“It’s about the Gulf War and it’s not. You have to listen to it and tell me what you think,” he said.
DeYoung said he is proud of the band’s diverse music, saying that it was only possible given that they existed in such a rapidly growing era in musical history. Styx explored every facet of the vast rock ’n’ roll genre. They wrote pop ballads, power ballads, progressive rock, soft rock, and ended their group career with their iconic rock opera “Killroy Was Here.”
“If you took ‘Babe’ and ‘Renegade’ and ‘Mr. Roboto,’ the only thing they’d have in common is that they were made by the same band. They were as disparate as they possibly could be,” he said. “I’m most proud of having a catalogue of songs – not the same song retreated a bunch of different ways.”
DeYoung has been playing since his youth and said he can’t imagine stopping.
“I tour all the time, I play all around. I go up on weekends. People want to hear these songs and they like hearing me sing. I get nothing more out of it than the satisfaction of having a job and seeing the joy on their faces. And they pay me,” he said.
Catch a glimpse of the Golden Age of music July 19 at The Paramount. Tickets range from $35 standing room only tickets to $79.50.