It isn’t often a band can continue after losing their frontman, let alone put out more good music, but that is exactly what Lawrence Gowan seems to have done for Styx.
In 1999, Styx’s Dennis DeYoung, the vocalist and keyboardist, decided to leave the group due to health issues, creative differences, disagreements regarding touring, and several other factors. Styx still had a tour planned at the time of DeYoung’s departure, and Canadian artist Lawrence Gowan was brought in to fill his spot. Since bringing in Gowan, the group has released multiple studio albums and found touring success once again.
This begs the question, even though Gowan and DeYoung each have their highlights, who is the better frontman?
DeYoung has been the leading force in some of Styx’s biggest hits. He’s written seven of the group’s eight top ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100, such as “Lady,” “Come Sail Away,” and “Mr. Roboto.” DeYoung even has a new album set for release in May, 2020, further showing he isn’t yet drained of lyricism.
Unlike DeYoung, Gowan never found any success on Billboard’s charts, but he did have some success on the Canadian charts. His most notable hit was with his 1985 single, “A Criminal Mind,” but other songs of his, such as “Moonlight Desires” and “Strange Animal” get constant radio airplay in Canada. Since Styx recruited Gowan, the group has occasionally added “A Criminal Mind” to their live setlists.
It has been a bit since Styx’s early years, but despite that, DeYoung appears to have retained most of his vocal talent in modern times. He can still sing the hits he wrote to near perfection, and continues to tour to this day. From “Too Much Time on My Hands” to the aforementioned “Come Sail Away,” DeYoung certainly has the ability to write catchy, ear-worm keyboard parts. They may not have the flashiest playing, but they are iconic nonetheless.
Gowan’s musicianship and skill is much better than DeYoung’s. At the young age of 19, Gowan earned an Associate Diploma in classical piano performance with the Royal Conservatory of Music, the highest academic achievement one can be awarded by the institution. If that isn’t enough evidence of Gowan’s talent, take a listen to the Styx song “Khedive” and prepare to have your mind blown.
No matter how much talent you have, none of it matters if you don’t have a good reputation and the support of your fans. Due to the mess that followed DeYoung’s departure in 1999 — which included a lawsuit for the right to the group’s name — many fans believe DeYoung to be extremely self-centered and egotistical, and would much rather forget he even still has a career. However, a large chunk of the fanbase still sides with DeYoung and attends his solo shows. The reality is that, in short, Styx would not exist if it wasn’t for DeYoung, and his reputation as a musician and singer-songwriter is still better than ever.
Gowan’s reputation with the Styx fanbase is much better than DeYoung’s. Many consider him to not only be the best possible replacement, but also a much better choice to front the band. That being said, Gowan does receive criticism from fans, on occasion, due to the fact he simply isn’t DeYoung, despite being extremely similar. Lawrence Gowan was, and still is, the best possible replacement as a frontman.
Filling the hole that emerged when Dennis DeYoung left Styx seemed like an impossible task for anyone, but Lawrence Gowan has, in fact, done just that. Gowan has done such a good job, Styx sounds better in modern days than they did during their most popular era in the late seventies and early eighties.
In recent months, DeYoung has expressed a desire to embark on “one last tour” with Styx. After considering his and Gowan’s songwriting, talent, and reputation, it would be best if a reunion tour did not happen — Styx is much better off leaving DeYoung in the past and continuing with Gowan in his place.