Arts & Icons
me to the point of frightening me, but on the other hand, it was always there. Especially when people called it a gay disease. That was very difficult to deal with.
You regained your health and rejoined the band in 1999. What was that like for you?
I had a great doctor and a great psychologist, I had good self-esteem. When I told my doctor I was going to rejoin the band, he was unsure. So I made a deal, that if I got sick again, I’d go back home. But that never happened. Now when I go onstage, fans scream my name, “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” though after I came out I worried other names might be chanted.
Montrealers and Quebecers have a long love affair with progressive rock and with Styx. The addition to Styx in 1999 of Canadian Laurence Gowan – who replaced Dennis DeYoung – made us love you guys more. How did the addition of Gowan affect the band?
I find him to be one of the most talented, creative and incredibly gracious human beings I have ever met, especially in the world of music. He is always funny, never whines or complains about anything. He has brought his genius, his wonderful gift, to this band. We played for 14,000 people last night (at the outdoor Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre outside Chicago), and he hit the stage running. He is such an honest and remarkable performer.
Do you still speak with Dennis DeYoung?
We don’t really have any contact.
Your twin brother John passed away in 1996. Has it gotten easier over the years to deal with his departure?
John was my first soul mate. We did everything together. He had my back when I was bullied in grammar school. He was a great person, a great drummer, and he loved our band more than anything. He was a huge influence on (our) music, he had no problem telling a producer or a member what he really thought. He was also very funny and able to diffuse issues within the group if things got too hot. It may not have resolved the problem, but it would resolve the moment, the situation. We still talk about him every day. I do think of him, and I am happy he remains a part of the music of Styx. It is his legacy. No one knows what happens to us after we die, but John will live eternally in the music of Styx. This new tour has also reenergized Styx and I think we have brought classic rock into the 21st century.
Any advice for other rock stars – or young aspiring musicians - out there debating whether or not they should come out?
If you’re a kid or teenager and think you will get thrown out of the house by your parents, I would say don’t come out. Because you don’t want to be kicked out on the streets where people will take advantage of you.
But for anyone over 18 or 21 who can live on their own, the most liberating thing you can ever do is to come out. Don’t worry then about who will reject you because those are the people you don’t need in your life.
The minute I came out as a gay man, it set my soul free. It was like a burden was lifted off of my shoulders. I wish I had done it earlier. RICHARD BURNETT
STYX headline THE 13TH ANNUAL STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT GALA, benefiting the Miriam Foundation, THE WEST ISLAND WOMAN’S SHELTER, AND CURESMA, at Fairview Pointe Claire on August 25. For more information and tickets, visit www.strangersinthenight.ca for tickets.
READ BURNETT’S NATIONAL QUEER-ISSUES COLUMN THREE DOLLAR BILL ONLINE AT WWW.BUGSBURNETT.BLOGSPOT.COM.