With Gratitude For Helping Me “Carry On”…Happy Birthday, Dennis DeYoung!

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In 1977, I was in elementary school, already a target for bullies, and enduring abuse and chaos in my personal life. That year, the song, “Come Sail Away” was released. It set my imagination on fire. …and began a life long sequence of memories entwined in the music of {singer, keyboardist, composer, playwright} Dennis DeYoung.

During the turbulent high school years, DeYoung’s creation of the character of Kilroy for a Styx tour served a purpose in my life, spent relying on imagination to “carry on”. Kilroy, joined the likes of the Fonz and Hawkeye as my inspirational protectors. In that time, there also was a flicker of a light, that in time, would grow…the light was a skinny keyboard player in a high school rock band. I always thought of him when I heard the songs, “Don’t Let It End” and “Desert Moon”. Years later, I would hear that skinny keyboard player sing and play, Styx’s “First Time”, and I melted into a puddle on the spot. Thus, it was fitting that during our honeymoon, we attended a Styx “Return to Paradise” concert.

During “Operation Desert Storm”, the Styx anthem “Show Me The Way” became an inspiration for our nation. After September 11th, 2001, I found this song to once again be a source of comfort and, as I have just listened to it again, the message still rings true with the upheaval of current times. DeYoung’s inspirational music is timeless.

The Styx CD “Brave New World” was released the same week that I suffered a miscarriage. Suffer is the operative word…in my devastation, I found myself repeatedly listening to “Goodbye Roseland”, a song written by DeYoung after his father’s death…in those days, I clung to that song like a life raft. Shortly after, I heard that DeYoung reportedly had been pushed out of Styx after becoming seriously ill and wanting them to delay the tour. Then partly out of gratitude, and if I’m authentic also out of a compulsive need to pull myself out of my depression, I set about emailing every Styx fan that I could to support Dennis in future endeavors. Looking back on it, I guess it was a bit over the top, but at the time, it helped to feel useful. Unwittingly, one of the Styx fans that I contacted was a friend of DeYoung’s…so when we attended a Dennis DeYoung concert featuring an orchestra Valentine’s weekend 2000, we were privileged to attend an after concert meet and greet. The most indelible moment of the night was seeing Dennis’ mom cup his face in both her hands beaming with pride at her little boy.

Shortly after, I heard that our local mental health association was having a fund-raising auction and “Request-a-Thon” with the local radio station. Maybe I watched too much “I Love Lucy” growing up, but I had what seemed to be a half-baked idea. I contacted DeYoung’s publicist asking if I sent them some Dennis DeYoung CD’s, could Dennis sign the CD’s for the auction. Hence, we were shocked to see the very large box that arrived, filled with all sorts of autographed CD’s, videos and T-shirts from both DeYoung’s Styx work and his solo efforts such as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. It was wonderful the way that he came through for a local charity.

Then came the “Request-a-Thon”, where the radio station would play songs for donations. The event was on location in the center court at the local mall, during the height of Easter shopping. The shoppers, caught up in their errands, barely took notice of any music playing. However, there was an exception…I requested the live version of “Suite Madame Blue.” Those who have heard that song will know exactly what I mean when I say “that note”. For everyone else, suffice it to say, DeYoung sings a beautifully sustained note that seems to last the musical equivalent of eternity. Thus, as Suite Madame Blue approached “that note”, it was with great curiosity that I watched the bustling shoppers for any reaction. React, they did…an entire crowd of previously disinterested shoppers stopped. Yes, stopped in their tracks, eyes widening, mouths gaping with expressions akin to the childhood imagining of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer flying over head.

My husband and I continued to try to have a child. Stressed out and almost to the point of saying, “I’m done!” We made plans to take another road trip to see Dennis with the orchestra for my husband’s birthday. I managed to get row J on the keyboard side of the stage. The look on my husband’s face during keyboard solo of Suite Madame Blue was priceless! Though we had bought two tickets, there was a stowaway, as I was less than a week pregnant with our daughter. Oh, and I knew it! I giddily dance around the parking lot, singing “Boys Will Be Boys” at the top of my lungs.

When the doctor saw something on ultrasound that they thought was a Dandy Walker Variant in her brain, the Hunchback songs “Ave Maria” and “Who Will Love this Child” served as comforting prayers for me. The presumed Dandy Walker proved nonexistent and for the first seventeen months of her life, she was the overachiever child. When that social butterfly went into an isolating cocoon, it was suggested by a physician that she could have Rett Syndrome. {We now know , of course, it was Autism.}

Note: The picture quality of this amateur video isn’t great, however the sound quality demonstrates the pristine quality of DeYoung’s voice. I just listened to it and got head to toe goose bumps once again!

With my current view of life, I can now imagine that there must be some children with Rett Syndrome who blossom, but at the time, everything that I read was bleak. Tormented by the idea that she may become completely unresponsive and would likely die at a very young age, we decided, that as long as she could have new life experiences, we would make sure that she did…so at approximately three years old, she attend a Dennis DeYoung concert with us. She seemed to enjoy it, but reflecting on that time, the anxiety generated by the thought of losing our precious girl clearly had us crazed to take a child that young to a rock concert, even with ear plugs. It is with immeasurable joy that I now witness our once nonverbal child singing along with the stereo playing, “Beneath the Moon” and of course, “Come Sail Away”.

So, on the day of his birthday, I take this moment to say, “Thank you, Dennis DeYoung for your music and generosity of spirit! I hope you have a magnificent birthday!!! May you, Suzanne, Carrie Ann, Matthew and the rest of your familia continue to move with the music of life for many years to come!!! Cheers!!!”

Note: These performances are used for fair-use tribute only. The copyrights to these performances are held by the respective composers, performers and publishers. To find out more, please go to DennisDeYoung.com

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This view includes an interview with Dennis DeYoung and two Hunchback cast performances: “Who Will Love This Child” and “Esmerelda”.

This entry was posted in Autism, Dennis DeYoung, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

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