One of the last big rock ballads of the 1970s was ruling the roost in America on December 8, 1979. “Babe,” among the most romantic songs in the history of Chicago rock staples Styx, completed its climb to No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the culmination of a long journey for the band named after the river that carried dead souls to Hades in Greek mythology.
Styx had been placing singles on the American chart for a good seven years, but only twice had they entered the US Top 10 before, firstly when “Lady” hit No.6 early in 1975 and then when “Come Sail Away” reached No.8 in the early part in 1978. After a series of big-selling albums, it was the band’s Cornerstone set that contained this heartfelt song written by vocalist and keyboard player Dennis DeYoung to his wife of 15 years, Suzanne.
The ballad of Dennis and Suzanne
“Being on the road for six years puts a strain on a relationship,” DeYoung explained in writer Fred Bronson’s Billboard Book Of Number One Hits. “I wanted to tell her how much I missed her when she was gone.” Suzanne, for her part, was sold straight away. “The first time I heard ‘Babe,’ I knew it was as good as ‘Lady,’ if not better,” she said.
DeYoung’s wife was less sure whether she wanted the world to know about her husband’s feelings. But the writer, who had first demo’d the track with fellow band members Chuck and John Panozzo, persuaded both Suzanne and the band that it was the right move to switch from their more familiar rock sound to this balladeering approach. The version they released was essentially the same as the demo, with the addition of a guitar solo by Tommy Shaw. In the last weeks of the 1970s, Dennis and Suzanne’s relationship fuelled a No.1 smash.
Buy or stream “Babe” on Styx’s Cornerstone album.