Come Sail Away
by Styx

Album: The Grand Illusion (1977)
Charted: 8
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  • Written and sung by Styx keyboard player Dennis DeYoung, this song is about following your dreams by embarking on a journey into the unknown. In the second verse, he misses out on the pot of gold, but continues to carry on.

    The song is a personal one for DeYoung, who wrote it about struggling to break through to the next level with Styx. Formed in the early '70s, they grew a solid fanbase but were always the support act (for Bob Seger, Foghat, Rush, Kiss, Aerosmith, etc.), never the headliner.

    Released as the first single from The Grand Illusion, "Come Sail Away" helped get them to this next level, as the Styx became one of the top arena rock acts of the next few years.
  • At the end of this song, the journeyman is visited by aliens, who at first he thinks are angels. "Come sail away with me" they tell him, before riding off in their spaceship.

    This was a very intergalactic time, as the album was released a little over a month after Star Wars hit theaters.
  • In a 2020 Songfacts interview with Dennis DeYoung, he talked about the meaning behind this song. "'Come Sail Away' is a song about yearning to be in a better place," he said. "How do you get there? You go on a boat, on a ship, angels waving their wings as you ascend to heaven with them. Is there something going on? A starship to the stars? Are they aliens? Is it Captain Kirk? You tell me."
  • Running 6:05 (in the album version), this song plays like a ballad for the first 2:20, then kicks in with the big guitars and chorus. It's quite a transition, and one that quickly brought couples apart on the dance floor. In the first episode of the first (and sadly, only) season of the 1999 TV series Freaks and Geeks, this song is playing when a geeky freshman finally gets to dance with his dream girl, but as soon as they hit the dance floor, the song goes from ballad to rocker, so they end up dancing apart.

    Dennis DeYoung loves this scene. "I watched it cold and had tears in my eyes because of what it captured," he told Songfacts. "All we want as human beings is approval, a pat on the head, to have somebody tell us we're OK and 'we love you.' At that moment, it showed the vulnerability of all of us."
  • This being the '70s, radio stations played a big role in promoting songs, and program directors could often be swayed with gifts of money and drugs. Payola, was of course, illegal, but that didn't stop Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw and the band's promo man Jim Cahill from traveling to many of the stations with bags of cocaine in an effort to get more airplay for this song. The tactic worked; Cahill explained on the Styx Behind The Music that program directors were like penguins, since they'd follow you around if you had "snow."
  • The radio edit runs just 3:07 and removes the entire second verse, pulling the uptempo transition up to 1:10. Styx purists see this as butchery.
  • The last part of this song where the angels/aliens come to visit can be seen as an allusion to the Bible verse of Ezekiel chapter 1:1-28 where a large wheel/cloud (depending on text) appears to Ezekiel and gives him instructions from God. The passage concludes:

    This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord

    The lyric has a similar theme:

    A gathering of angels appeared above my head
    They sang to me this song of hope
    And this is what they said

    (later in song)...

    I thought that they were angels
    But to my surprise
    They climbed aboard their starship
    And headed for the skies.

    Some people believe the figure Ezekiel saw was not a messenger sent from God but an alien space craft or a time machine from the future. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Tommy - Indianapolis, IN
  • The band had to push for this to be the lead single from the album, as their management wanted "Superstars" released first.
  • This regained popularity in 1999 when it was used in the raunchy, animated cartoon show South Park. One of the characters, Cartman, was compelled to sing it every so often. Cartman's version was released on a soundtrack album and the song was introduced to a new generation.
  • Styx performed this during the pre-game show of Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa. Swashbucklers sailed into the stadium pirate ship while the band performed.

Comments: 55

  • Sparks from San Antonio, TxThis has bugged me for years and I can't find an answer. During the first/second line of the chorus Dennis sings "come sail away with me,...." It sounds like he says "she lied" but I know that's not right. it's never put in anywhere on lyric sites so please let me know. Then I can die fulfilled.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 22nd 1978, "Come Sail Away" by Styx peaked at #8 (for 1 week) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on September 18th, 1977 and spent 22 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #9 on Canadian RPM Top Hits chart...
    Was track four on their seventh studio album, 'The Grand Illusion', the album peaked at #6 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    One other track off the album also made the Top 100; "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" (peaked at #29 for 1 week on April 16th, 1978).
  • Sean from Chicago, IlOne of the best songs of all time. The entire Grand Illusion is awesome. Styx is the most awesome band ever.
  • Terry from Colchester, VtSaw Styx and REO Speedwagon together several years ago and it was just an amazing show. REO opened they just tore it up. They used to really rock before they got into the power ballad garbage in the early 80s. But Styx was just amazing. This song was done near the end of their set and they just let it rip.
  • Megan from Stevenson, AlBest song Styx ever did! Amazing! This song is wonderful! I love when bands play this at halftime shows or competitons because usually it's a trumpet solo at the beginning and it is BEAUTIFUL!!!
  • Godwin Otinyi from Abuja, NigeriaCome sail away;Yes!This song is not about sailing in the water;is a massage from Heaven.Each time l listen to this music,my soul raises to heaven and i experience inner peace.Godwin Raphael, Nigeria.
  • Cheryle from Columbus, OhWhat I never understood was why the single edit of this song was chopped down so much. I could see taking out the bridge, since to some people, that tends to go on and on, but why take out the second verse? That was a little overkill, IMO. By doing that, they pretty much hacked the song in half.
    - Chris , LaPorte, IN

    This song, in its full version, clocks in at over 6 minutes in length. Back in 1977, AM radio ruled the day and they didn't play songs that were much over 3 minutes. A lot of singles from that decade received similar treatment, unfortunately.
  • Kyl from Mesa, AzI have to say I first heard this song on South Park, but the original is still the best. It makes you want to cry and laugh at the same time.
  • Zachary from State College, PaI simply love this song. It's probably one of the few songs that can get me to cry.
  • Karissa from Olympia, WaThis song was on the pilot episode of 'Freaks and Geeks' best show ever. Love this song
  • Drew from B'ham, AlOh by the way, I must confess myself amused by this below comment "I always thought they were saying ' sail away with me'." Haha... Andra, I'm gunna think those words into the song every time I hear it. Probably not even on purpose!
  • Drew from B'ham, AlThe bridge in C-Sharp minor (G-Sharp minor chords, of course) sounds somewhat watery, sci-fi-ish, & highly celestial. Very relevant right after the lyrics "A gathering of angels appeared above my head". Every time I hear the bridge I picture ascension into heaven. Styx is one of a kind! Keep it up!
  • Wayne from Crockett, TxI've always thought Dennis DeYoung was one of the best enunciators in the music business. Great song by any standard.
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaIf you want to read more on the Ezekial reference as being an extraterrestrial visitation, read Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods"
  • Janetlee from Panama City, FlI love the beginning of this song with the singing and instrumental background and I like the seond half where it becomes a sci-fi fantasy song, but I wish the first half could've been a longer song completely separate from it's second half! Ya know, two totally different songs! :)
  • Mia from Syracuse, NyThis song is amazing and I love this song live. I never got to see them with Dennis, but Lawrence Gowan is AWESOME. I love how he intros the song, he just revs the crowd up for it knowing that it is going to be a sing-a-long every time. Great song!
  • Rachael from Caledonia, IlCome Sail Away is obviously a metaphor. It's always reminded me about the story The Odyssey [which some people think is also a metaphor...], especially since their name is Styx.
  • Andra from Vista, CaI always thought they were saying "come sail away, come sail away, sail away with me"

    My kids still bust me for singing the wrong words, but of course I never sang this version in front of them.
  • Chris from Laporte, InWhat I never understood was why the single edit of this song was chopped down so much. I could see taking out the bridge, since to some people, that tends to go on and on, but why take out the second verse? That was a little overkill, IMO. By doing that, they pretty much hacked the song in half.
  • Janet from Mallorytown, Onomg! i love the chorus of this song! it's the best part! does anyone else but me recognize this song from the Virgin Suicides? i love that movie and they play this song at the prom! i love it!
  • Jake from Columbia City, InThe Cartman version is funny, but Styx is alot better in general.
  • Allie from Pine Knob, MiI love this song to death!!!!
    The piano gets me every time
  • Cindy from Tempe, Az"This song is so cheesy, bad and over the top, that it's good; gotta love early 80's arena rock...
    - J, NYC, NY"

    Except for the fact that it was released in 1977 and in no way could possibly be considered early '80s arena rock. Two completely different eras.
  • Rob from Detroit , MiBy the way, this song is so uncool, that this makes it cool. Think about that!

    IHOP Club RULES!!!!!!!!
  • Rob from Detroit , MiOne of my personal theme songs. I love it. Also, my favorite use of it was when it soundtracked the finale to the first episode of the now defunct, vastly underrated TV program, "Freaks and Geeks," which also happens to be my favorite TV show. Just thought I'd mentiont that.
  • Andrew from Bartlett, TnI freaking love this song! It makes me wants to go away and sail away!
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesAhh, this song is unique. Styx runs this song through in C minor (well, it sounds major in many ways). Styx runs into the bridge in C sharp minor; it makes you think it's gonna stay in that key to the end. But then, when the bridge is over, it's back down one half step - the key in which it began. That's pretty spiffy and catchy. Long live Styx!!
  • David from Deerfield Beach, FlPosted on 11/5/2007. Has got to be considered as one of the greatest classic rock songs of all-time. This song just soars! Styx was one of my favorite bands back in the late 70's & early 80's, and this was probably their signature song. I was lucky enough to have seen them in concert twice when Dennis DeYoung was still with the band in 1996 & 1997, and have seen them several times since without him. They held their own, but the 2 shows with Dennis were very good shows. I also saw Dennis not too long ago in 2005 solo. He was good. Too bad he & the band are no longer getting along.
  • Scott from Palm Desert, CaWhen I swore my alliance to only punk/new wave in the late 70's this song had to go. Now that I am older I can appreciate it again. It really is a great song.
  • Genevieve from North MelbourneAlice Cooper claims this is probably the gayest rock song ever.
  • J from Jackson, GaI don't care what anyone says, I will always like this song, and I will always love the Cartman version.
  • Lalah from Wasilla, AkI saw Styx perform with Aerosmith in Providence RI back around 1978-79. I was there for my belowed Aerosmith but I remember being blown away by Styx' performance of this song. Wow, it was like Yes meets Bad Co.
  • Richard from Nyc, NySometimes I have trouble believing that Styx actually wrote this song. Boy oh boy. That first one minute and 30 seconds (piano and vocal only) man...LOL...even Mozart would have applauded. This song was their moment in the sun. Well done.
  • Noah from Fortaleza, BrazilDoes anybody else think Final Fantasy when they hear the music.
  • Donna from Neosho, WiThis is the best effin song EVER. Period.

    This was gonna be my eighth-grade graduation class song...but no, I was denied also. There is no other song in the world that can even it up with "Come Sail Away"...this is the song of all songs! Alleluia and amen! No matter who you are, or what music you gotta love "Come Sail Away." There is nothing more magical than when you're at a Styx concert and everybody raises their lighters into the darkness and sings along with the epic lyrics to "Come Sail Away".

    I cry every time.

    Styx owns, bebe!
  • J from Nyc, NyThis song is so cheesy, bad and over the top, that it's good; gotta love early 80's arena rock...
  • Adam from Greenfield, InHas anyone ever read the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", this is what I think of when I hear it.
  • Grace from Conway, Arloved the piano intro; i should try and play it. i didn't like the faster, second half. i manage to get through it, but the first part is the best, imho.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, Sci was at a club/restaurant in Ashville North Carolina last week. In the downstairs, there was the bar area where the houseband performed. They did covers of songs. This was one of them, and the lead singer sang the second verse just like Cartman. After that he sang the theme-song to the Southpark Musical. I really don't watch Southpark, but this was funny! When the guy wasn't singing like Cartman, he sounded a little like Billy Jole. The guy singing was laughing and had a hard time keeping it together.
  • Bob from Rio Vista, Cabest song ever.
  • Jay from Glen Burnie, MdThe album this song comes from, "The Grand Illusion" was a themed album, like "Kilroy". The entire theme of the album is that things are not always what they seem. "Come Sail Away"'s reference to aliens in the starship (I thought that they were angels, etc..) follows this theme. The dreams the singer had in the past, which he thought would come true, haven't.
  • Matt from Haddon Hieghts, Nji am a young child who is not caught up in the new wacky hip hop age and this song is my favorite it has awsome singing and love the slow to fast tempo love this song
  • Travis from Phoenix, Nyawesome song. sadly, styx has very few songs that i could say this about, one of them being the Grand Illusion
  • Deo from Annandale, VaThis is such a great piece to play on piano!!! I play it at least everyday.
  • Clayton from Blount County, AlI tried to get this to be my class song... sadly I was denied...
  • Erica from Hampstead, NcSweet song! must bye CD it calls to me! My precious!
  • Rob from Sydney, AustraliaUsed by a commercial TV station in Sydney Australia as a promo piece, it was set to video of an 18ft skiff sailboat sponsored by the station travelling flat out across Sydney Harbour in a stiff wind. For anyone who has ever sailed anything quick, or gone fast in or on anything at all this should put shivers up the spine!!
  • Erica from Hampstead, NcEvery time I hear this song I'm like Cartman I have to sing it, it's just one of those things.
  • Chris from Port Hawkesbury, CanadaPatches together Dennis DeYoung's somewhat shmaltzy verses with a rocking chorus by Tommy Shaw, with a sequenced synth break in the middle. I don't think the song is about anything much. Pretty standard rock-superstar-now-a-space-star thing, which was all the rage at the time. (Calling Occupants, Spaceship Superstar, Mission (A New World Record)).
  • Brian from Medford, OrThe chorus of the song (with different lyrics) is from a song from Tommy Shaw's old band MS Funk, called "Ain't Going Down"
  • Jonathan from Oklahoma City, Oknot a bad song.. I have had the chance to see them in concert...Loved every bit of it.
  • Ben from Winston-salem, NcThis song is not about sailing in the water; it deals with aliens.
    "A gathering of angels appeared above my head"
    "I thought that they were angels, but to my surprise
    They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies"
  • Aaron from Seward, AkHow is take me apart a parody on come sail away the tune could not be the same.
  • Robert from Chicago, IlBest Styx song ever. Guitarist James Young does bridge synth part. The song itself is mostly about childhood goals and dreams, but the last verse is about alien abduction.
  • Sarah from Toronto, CanadaThis was also used for Unionvilles Grade 10 Clown show! Oh ya
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