This week’s Free Ride* muses on the voice of Dennis DeYoung, keyboardist and front man for the 70s arena rock group, Styx, who turns 65 today. One of my clearest teenage memories involves seeing Styx at the Asheville Civic Center, when they and Mott the Hoople were the opening acts for the KISS Alive tour. I have to confess, my friends and I spent as much time making fun and imitating DeYoung’s overly dramatic vocals as we did attempting serious impersonations of Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons. But I give him credit, DeYoung’s music has endured, as I still hear many of the songs regularly on the classic rock stations. Who can’t sing along to such hits as Renegade and Babe and Lady and Lorelei? For DeYoung’s contribution to the freedom songbook, we turn to another of those oft’ played hits, Come Sail Away. The ballad is a classic riff on the freedom of the open seas, that Invictus ideal of being the master of your own fate and the captain of your own soul:
Later in the song, the song takes a bit of a twist as a band of angels gathers and invites the sailor to come sail away, and much to his surprise, he finds they are not angels, but extraterrestrials who take him aboard a star ship and head out for the skies. You can understand how this would provide great material for teenagers wanting to ham it up with melodramatic vocal impersonations.
I’m not sure Dennis DeYoung would be bothered by knowing that a bunch of adolescent KISS fans poked fun at his stage presence. He has had more significant parodies in recent years. I wonder what is more embarrassing for him, to have made his acting debut playing the role of lead singer in a Styx tribute band in the stinker of a movie, The Perfect Man, or to have heard Eric Cartman wailing out Come Sail Away on South Park? Ah, the life of an aging rock star. I imagine he really is ready to sail away and set a course for the virgin sea, and try to carry on.