Who was Styx’s frontman? Dennis DeYoung feels right. I think a straw poll taken on the streets would reveal that most people see DeYoung as the front man (it’s also likely to reveal that the average American does not have name-by-name recognition of Styx). DeYoung has the more distinctive voice. He took the lead on Styx’s most memorable, enduring tunes.
And yet, by sheer hit-song volume, Tommy Shaw could claim the mantle of band front man:
Dennis DeYoung:Babe ,Lady, Come Sail Away, Mr Roboto, Don’t Let It End
Tommy Shaw: Too Much Time on My Hands, Fooling Yourself, Renegade, Blue Collar Man
Styx is a band with confused identity. It does not fit into stereotypical roles: lead singer, guitarist, rhythm guitarist, bassist, drummer… Who is the lead singer here?
Describing the lead singer role in Styx is like describing the Holy Trinity: every attempt breaks down in the end. Shaw and DeYoung are one in lead singer-ship. Two distinct voices yet co-equal. One does not proceed from the other.. and yet the band cannot exist without one nor the other. Defining Styx’s lead singer-ship is best resolved in mystery.
ANYWAYS, the band has a confused identity, but the individuals within do not. They are men with value and worth. How do we know? Because “Fooling Yourself” from 1977’s The Grand Illusion tells us.
The song is Tommy Shaw’s pep talk for a troubled young man. The young man is convinced the world has beaten him. He’s convinced he’s amounted to nothing. The song’s lyrics imply he’s lost his sense of worth. He’s failed in his dreams. He had some big ideas about what he was going to be, but they’re lost. He tried, but the world ripped them away. Instead his future dreams now include being an “alright guy” who’s seen every episode of “Seinfeld” and can make his own barbecue sauce.
But for Tommy, who tells him: “That’s not who you are, man! You are not a failure. You have value and worth. And are defined by so much more.”
We all have that identity. We are all the angry young man. And if we start believing that we are beings without worth, value, or promise, then we are fooling ourselves, too. Indeed, the world will sometimes tell us we don’t matter. Politicians will tell us that some of us belong and others don’t. Street corner preachers may holler to us that we are filthy creatures awaiting punishment.
But to believe such things is to fool ourselves. But we know that. There is something within us that understands we each have value. Sometimes we need Tommy Shaw to remind us.
Perhaps we perceive a sense of self-value because the force which created us imprinted us that way. Perhaps, actually, we believe we have worth because the Creator believes we do.
The voice of religion often tells us that we’re not measuring up. It often hollers at us to try harder. That voice is calling us towards living into potential, but it sometimes misses the point. Perhaps the voice needs to take some cues from Tommy: remind the whole of humanity that we are individuals of infinite worth.
Hebrews 11 says that God is not ashamed to be called our God. We are valued creatures. The creator values and believes in the created.
I’d love to encounter a street corner who hollers at all passers-by: “You matter. You have infinite worth! Love surrounds you!”
You matter. You have infinite worth. Love surrounds you.