Saturday, March 17, 1979

Styx charted with “Renegade”

First posted 7/8/2012; updated 3/29/2019.



Writer(s): Tommy Shaw (see lyrics here)

Released: January 9, 1979

First Charted: March 17, 1979

Peak: 16 US, 18 CB, 22 HR, 17 RR, 10 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales *: -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Radio Airplay *: --

Video Airplay *: 34.5

Streaming *: --

* in millions


I consider 1979 – when I was in sixth grade – to be my musical birth. That’s when I started to pay attention to music for the first time. One of my first favorite songs was “Renegade” by Styx. It came out in the spring of that year, but my exposure to it came that summer. I was at a camp and about a half dozen of us bonded and hung out together a lot. The other guys kept singing “Renegade” and by the end of the camp I loved the song despite never actually having heard the original version.

When I started buying music, I started with eight track. My first purchase was a K-Tel collection called High Energy. I bought it primarily because of four songs – Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” Chic’s “Le Freak,” Foreigner’s “Double Vision,” and Styx’s “Renegade.” It probably isn’t surprising that three of the four songs rank among my top 100 favorites to this day (sorry Foreigner).

What still grabs me to this day is the song’s a cappella opening, first with just Tommy Shaw’s voice. A faint drum beat shows up between lines and then the rest of the band chimes in, melding their voices beautifully. Then comes the scream – and the song lurches forward into a full-on rock tune. Lyrically, it is a first-person account of being on the run from the law, knowing when he’s caught he’ll be hung.

Styx was unique in that three of its players wrote and sang. Dennis DeYoung sang on most of the band’s biggest hits (“Babe,” “Come Sail Away,” "The Best of Times," “Mr. Roboto,” “Don’t Let It End”) while Shaw tackled more rock-oriented fare (“Fooling Yourself,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Too Much Time on My Hands”). Guitarist James Young would typically contribute a rocker to each album as well. Typically Shaw and Young would play lead on their own songs, but Young asked to play lead on this one. Shaw obliged and Young returned the favor on “Half Penny, Two Penny” from the band’s 1981 Paradise Theatre album. WK

The song became an anthem for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A team marketing assistant named Mike Marchinsky suggested it in 2001 when the team moved into its new stadium at Heinz Field. That season, the song was played during a playoff game when the Steelers were down 24-7 against the Cleveland Browns. The song ignited the Steelers and the came back to win. Since then, it has become routine to play it during a particular moment in the second half when the defense needs to stop an offensive drive. A video is broadcast on the jumbotron, building the crowd to a frenzy by the time the scream comes in. SF It has become such a tactical tool that the coach sometimes calls for the song in key situations. SF

Resources and Related Links:


Saturday, March 10, 1979

Gloria Gaynor hit #1 with “I Will Survive”

Last updated 4/13/2020.

I Will Survive

Gloria Gaynor

Writer(s): Dino Fekaris, Freddie Perren (see lyrics here)

First Charted: December 16, 1978

Peak: 13 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 2 RR, 9 AC, 4 RB, 114 UK, 1 CN, 5 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 1.02 UK, 14.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 229.7 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

With its message of “of defiance and freedom,” BR1 “I Will Survive” became an anthem for both feminism and gay rights, AMG but for Gloria Gaynor it was a personal statement. Unlike the song’s narrator, she was happily married, SF but she was overcoming major obstacles, including the death of her mother, a career in freefall, and a literal fall from the stage. AMG

Gaynor was crowned the Queen of Disco in the wake of her 1974 hit “Never Can Say Goodbye,” but subsequent failed singles left her career fighting for survival. In the spring of 1978, a tumble off the stage left her bedridden for nine months with a severe spinal injury. AMG Once out of the hospital, this declaration of resilience was just the kind of recovery she needed. The song is “equal parts dancefloor juggernaut and Broadway show-stopper,” AMG so full of “attitude and sass that it veers dangerously close to pure camp” AMG but Gaynor gives it an authenticity that lifts it above its melodramatic qualities.

Originally this was a B-side for what Gaynor said was “the company president’s pet project so there was no way I could get the record flipped.” KL She persuaded club DJs to play the song and it became a favorite of the famed Studio 54 in New York. TB Polydor Records then promoted the song as “More than a hit – it’s a way of life.” AMG

The song gained new life when it emerged as a hit again fifteen years after its original release. In 1994, it was featured in the drag-queen comedy The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and topped the charts in Australia, AMG showing that it was truly a song built to survive.

Resources and Related Links:

  • Gloria Gaynor’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Jason Ankeny
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 498.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 246.
  • SF Songfacts
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 179.