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 “JY” 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

Related: Our Album Rewind of 1981’s Paradise Theatre

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

Best Classic Bands Staff

6 Comments so far

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  1. MJM
    #1 MJM 12 October, 2021, 09:45

    I think a lot of people would appreciate “Mr. Roboto” in their set now…regardless of who is in the band. The song, and album, is very well noted as “the concept that killed Styx.” At least it was when it came out. Even diehard fans had a hard time explaining it and defending it.

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  2. coachcraig
    #2 coachcraig 11 October, 2022, 07:37

    Saw Styx perform with the Colorado Symphony in 2018 @ Red Rocks in Colorado. Great concert. Mr. Roboto was not performed that night. Renegade was their encore performance. Wish they would’ve performed Mr. Roboto, though. I never understood why this song was so discredited and considered the song that “killed” Styx. It was and still is a great, fun song. I liked it the first time I heard it. Sure, it was different, and it is not quite the same without Dennis performing it, but it is still a kick-ass, fun song to listen to and see performed. This lead singer does do the song justice though. That being said, when these classic bands tour, it’s all about the songs that got them to where they are today. As Don Henley tells his audience at the Eagles’ concerts, it’s all about the songs. He knows what their audience wants to hear. So, to Tommy and James, why not incorporate all of the Dennis catalog into your concerts now? Your lead singer can handle it, and obviously so can your band of musicians. It’s what your fans came to hear. Remember Don Henley’s words, “it’s all about the songs.” You’re welcome!

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    • Kim
      Kim 12 October, 2022, 18:54

      I’d much rather hear more of Tommy’s songs like Lights, Fooling yourself (Angry young man) JY Miss America. I was much bothered back in the day when they toured for the album Mr. Roboto.small amphitheater sucked! All my friends were making fun of them Where’s the Rock concert that was expected back then.

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    • JJinLA
      JJinLA 5 April, 2023, 01:55

      I went to the Kilroy Was Here concert and love Mr. Roboto. Dennis DeYoung made Tommy and JY rock stars and they kick him out of the band HE started? You couldn’t pay me to go to a Styx concert now. Dennis WAS Styx.

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    • The Kid
      The Kid 4 September, 2023, 13:56

      I feel the pain. Dennis DeYoung is major talent. Shouldn’t have been booted. And unless Tommy and James weren’t allowed to do their tunes also, then I don’t get it. I’ve seen Styx several times on tour and they are kick ass on stage. Love them. But, I saw Dennis DeYoung on a “Songs of Styx” tour. Don’t know how to say it, but his band did it all as well and even better on some songs that Styx themselves. They were incredible. Two friends we took with us who were also upset the Dennis was doing theatrical rock, came out of the show and said they didn’t realize how much Dennis DeYoung made the group. They’re all talented, Wish they’d all stuck it out.

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  3. classicsquabbles
    #3 classicsquabbles 6 February, 2024, 11:57

    Guitar players are always like little narcist babies in rock bands. JY and Shaw are pouting like little children. Dennies De Young founded this band, and did a great job with it.
    You notice how they don’t play the first 5 Albums material at all? Yea, think about that for a min. Cause, Tommy Shaw doesn’t perform on it. And, the law suit probably has it covered.
    Fans, have asked for it.

    I mean if you make an agreement under contract and go out on tour while 2 band members are sick, you’re going to get sued! And, you do it just because, you disagree on creative differences, and then you trash the other band member while you’re violating that contract clause, etc. What do you expect?

    Guitar Players again.

    And, frankly I’ve seen them only when Dennis was with them. I would NOT pay to see them now. Why? Because I’m not paying super expensive, ticket prices 200-400 up to see nothing more than a Cover Band with only 2 original members in it. I just will not do it.

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