October 10, 2000: Dennis DeYoung Sues Styx

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The Best of Times?

Things can get ugly when bands split and shatter. And often wind up in court. That’s what happened when Styx went out on tour in 2000 with James “J.Y.” Young and Tommy Shaw but without founding singer and keyboard player Dennis DeYoung, who had written and sung their biggest hits, including the 1979 #1, “Babe.”

The band also enjoyed big chart successes with other DeYoung-penned tunes including “Show Me the Way,” “The Best of Times” and “Mr. Roboto” – more on that one below – all of which reached #3, as well their breakthrough hit, “Lady” and “Come Sail Away,” also written by DeYoung.

The Chicago-based classic rock group had broken up in 1983, and then regrouped in 1989 and again in 1995. Original drummer John Panozzo died in 1996. The remaining members made an album in 1999, Brave New World, during which longstanding artistic differences came to a head. DeYoung wanted to continue following his theatrical bent that had first shown up on the band’s 1981 album Paradise Theatre, and was writing songs in a Broadway and classic pop vein. Young and Shaw preferred to rock.

Watch Styx perform “Come Sail Away” in happier times

When Styx booked a tour to promote the disc (largely a commercial flop), DeYoung asked them to delay it due to health issues he was having that made him painfully sensitive to light and sound (bassist Chuck Panozzo was also sidelined from that tour for health reasons). Young and Shaw toured as Styx without DeYoung.

He filed suit in 2000, claiming the tour violated an agreement the group members made in 1990 that all decisions by Styx required all five members to agree. He charged that his former bandmates were damaging the band’s name and stature. Yet he also sought a share of the proceeds from the tour.

The other members countersued when DeYoung started performing shows that billed him as “the voice of Styx.” A settlement allows him to say “formerly of Styx” or “performing the music of Styx,” but not “the voice.” Young, Shaw and Chuck Panozzo continue to perform and record as Styx (and for years have tended to not play DeYoung’s songs). (DeYoung tours regularly; tickets are available here and here.)

Fast forward to 2018. After 35 years, Styx has added “Mr. Roboto” to its concert setlist – as an encore. Young told Billboard in June 2018 that “that there were people coming to our concerts that wanted to hear that song.” Young apparently couldn’t resist throwing a barb at DeYoung when he added: “It’s reinterpreted into something much more palatable to Tommy and myself and the rest of the gang.”

On his Facebook page, DeYoung called it “vindication. It’s just two guys finally admitting the obvious. People like it.

“A whole bunch of time has been spent over the last 18 years denigrating ‘Roboto’ and yours truly. Why?

“I imagine it will become obvious to them when they perform it… what they have been missing. It’s something I have known for 18 years. And that is…people will go bananas when it’s played cause they like it, it’s fun. It’s that simple, and a whole bunch of Styx fans became so after hearing this song. They then went back and bought the catalogue.”

Fans are advised to not hold their breath awaiting DeYoung’s return to the band. As Shaw points out, “[W]e weren’t even happy working with each other in our heyday. We’re just different people with different desires and different vision of how things should be.”

Watch Styx perform “Mr. Roboto” in 2018

Styx continues to tour regularly. Tickets are available here and here.

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