|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
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