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Rock Musician and Activist (b. 1948)

Bassist for the rock band Styx, Charles Salvatore Panozzo was born 20 September, 1948, twin brother of John Panozzo. The brothers grew up in Chicago’s infamous South Side, just down the street from future bandmate Dennis DeYoung. Chuck and his brother studied music from the age of five. Before they were even in their teens, were playing at weddings and in a local band.

In 1962. Chuck and John, along with a neighbor, started a musical trio. They soon recruited Dennis DeYoung and named their band the Tradewinds. After adding James Young and John Curulewski, they changed the name of the band to TW4 and were signed on to the Wooden Nickel label. They soon changed the band name once more, this time to Styx.

Chuck thought for awhile about joining the priesthood and was briefly in the seminary. He received a degree in art education and taught art at the high-school level for a time. His bandmates trusted his sense on aesthetic decisions and he had a lot of say on nearly every aspect of their look, including costumes, album art and lighting for their stage show.

In the next years, Styx went from being unknown to being one of the biggest rock shows in the world. Despite a breakup in 1984 and solo projects from some of the bandmates, Styx continued, re-forming with the Panozzos, DeYoung and Young in 1990. Tommy Shaw did not join up this time, as he had other projects going.

All this while, Chuck Panozzo lived with the deep secret that he was gay. He received some support from his family, but he felt that he could not tell his bandmates about it for fear that they would treat him differently, even dislike him. The breaking point came in 1991, when he was diagnosed with HIV.

In July, 1996 his brother John died of internal bleeding related to cirrhosis of the liver. This had a profound effect on Chuck and battling his deep depression became a nearly full-time job for him.

By 1998, his illnesses was too much. He began to work publicly with HIV research groups and he came out publicly and told about the difficulty of living in the world of rock music in the '70s and '80s as a gay man. He came out at a Human Rights Campaign dinner in front of over 1000 people, friends, family and at least one bandmate, James Young. It took courage and he has received great amounts of support in recent years from friends and family

In recent years, he battled prostate cancer and so far is managing to maintain a very healthy lifestyle, working out, eating right and abstaining from alcohol and drugs. He sometimes joins with his bandmates for live performances, but largely now works with Human Rights Campaign and HIV/AIDS awareness groups. He has spoken very frankly about the trials, traumas and triumphs of his life’s journey.


References:
Chuck’s personal site, http://www.chuckpanozzosplace.com/, for much more information about his life and his activism.
The Grand Illusion – Styx site - www.thegrandillusion.com
Styxworld – www.styxworld.com

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