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10 Albums That Changed My Life: Dennis DeYoung

It was a mixed bag of musical influences that influenced one-time accordionist Dennis DeYoung before he started writing hits as the keyboardist for Styx.

As a member of the band Styx, Dennis DeYoung penned several iconic songs from the 1970s and ’80s, including “Come Sail Away,” “Suite Madame Blue,” “Lady,” “The Best of Times” and “Mr. Roboto.”

In 2021, the former Styx frontman releases the second album of his fond farewell to recorded music, 26 East, Vol. 2 (shown above).

When asked which 10 records changed his life, DeYoung had no problem spouting out, in chronological order rather than personal importance, many styles of music. It is this mixed bag of musical influences that shaped the one-time maestro of the accordion into the songwriter he is today.



1. Various Artists, RCA: 60 Years of Music America Loves Best

As an 11-year-old, I joined the RCA Record Club, and they sent me this record. Not an ounce of rock, but rather a vast spectrum of music, from classical to jazz. The Hit Parade introduced me to everything under the sun, which expanded my love of music.



2. Various Artists, various singles

The first five singles I bought (no one bought albums then): “Great Balls of Fire,” Jerry Lee Lewis (shown above); “Venus,” Frankie Avalon; “Runnin’ Scared,” Roy Orbison (there’s that “Bolero” again); “Jailhouse Rock,” Elvis Presley; “Little Jimmy Brown,” The Browns, which was a 78, not a 45. Holy crap, I’m old. This record made me cry.



3. The Beatles, The Beatles’ Second Album

My friend, Dave, had Meet The Beatles, but I didn’t become a fan until Ed Sullivan, night one. After that, and until this day, they have been the greatest influence on me. The Beatles held no songwriting boundaries — much like that RCA album (mentioned above).



4. The Animals, The Best of The Animals

This was my first rock concert. I saw them live at the U of I-Chicago and stood no more than 10 feet from Eric Burdon. “We Got To Get Outta of This Place,” “It’s My Life,” “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “Mad Again.” Cool organ stuff.


rubber soul

5. The Beatles, Rubber Soul and Revolver 

At first listen, I thought they had lost their minds. But no! Goodbye Beatlemania, hello the future.


Jimmy Smith and Lalo Schifrin, The Cat

6. Jimmy Smith and Lalo Schifrin, The Cat

He is the Jimi Hendrix of organists. He had his mojo workin’, and it was workin’ on me.


The Beatles — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

7. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 

Robert Hilburn, L.A. rock critic, once wrote an essay about how this record ruined rock. Yeah, the same way the fork ruined eating.


Three Dog Night, Three Dog Night

8. Three Dog Night, Three Dog Night

Their power vocal triads would become the theory behind Styx harmonies, though higher and whinier.


Abbey Road

9. The Beatles, Abbey Road 

The Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight and Paradise Theater were all disguised attempts at recreating that album. Yeah, Dennis, good luck with that.



10. The Who, Who’s Next 

Thank you, Pete Townshend, for inventing the power chord and the windmill. Without power chords there would be no power ballads, nor half the songs on rock radio.


Special Mention for albums: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash; Yes, The Yes Album; Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears; Chicago, Chicago II; Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Emerson, Lake & Palmer (thanks, Keith!); and Three Suns, who kept me entertained on accordion until The Beatles.


Originally compiled by Jeb Wright


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