How ‘Lady’ Belatedly Saved Styx From a Lifetime of Obscurity
Dennis DeYoung was well aware of how tenuous things were for Styx until “Lady” became a surprise hit.
The song originally appeared 1973's Styx II, but it wasn't originally successful when released as a single. “Lady” finally began to gain traction the following year, soaring all the way to No. 6 in March 1975. By then, Styx had already released their fourth album, Man of Miracles.
“My philosophy has always been that what drives us – fear, as much as anything else – is a great motivator,” the former Styx frontman said recently on the Hardcore Humanism podcast. “After that album was over with, we were out of business. Nobody else was gonna sign us; we had no record success.”
DeYoung faced a return to schoolteaching, until “this guy, this programmer director Jim Smith, goes and picks ‘Lady’ out of thin air. I would have been done in music if ‘Lady’ hadn't been a hit. I look at it and I think, ‘Wow! What a pivotal moment that that happened to me.’ It's unbelievable to me, when I look back on it, how close we were to failure.”
Listen to Styx Perform ‘Lady’
He says he “always knew how close we were to complete failure” and that it had “made a big impression.” Of course, success often comes with a price, DeYoung added.
“Talk to any real successful person, and if they're honest, they'll tell you [that] you were trying to fill up a hole, a void, a need for approval,” he said. “And then when you got there, despite the fact that you got the approval, it didn't feel like it was enough. It didn't feel like it did its job. Anybody who tells the truth, that has been successful, will tell you that.”
DeYoung said the lesson to learn was: “When there’s a crowd of people standing there and you jump up and down and wave your arms and demand attention and ask everybody to look at you, you'd better have something going.”