Miss America
by Styx

Album: The Grand Illusion (1977)


  • Styx guitarist James Young wrote this song and sang lead vocals. He wrote it about his wife, Susie, who suffered from a rare, incurable condition called porphyria. It's a love song, but not a typical one, as Young delivers a snarling lyric with lines like, "Does that smile seem to wear you down."

    She is his "Miss America," and he is singing about her struggle, most overtly in the line, "This dream that you must live, a disease for which there is no cure."

    The chorus ends with the band singing "our love," affirming the tribute.
  • This song is often interpreted as a gritty send-up of the Miss America pageant, taking aim at the shallow and exploitive production that casts aside the winner as soon as someone new takes her crown. While the pageant does frame the metaphor, it is not what the song is about.
  • James Young was sometimes cast as a misogynist for his work on this song, thanks largely to the Rolling Stone review of The Grand Illusion, in which Joe Fernbacher wrote: "'Miss America' simply reeks of misogynistic misdirection. What Styx thinks is a compliance with current feminist fashion turns out to be nothing more than a spiteful acquiescence to sexual bigotry and impotence."

    Dennis DeYoung responded on his website: "It's his ignorant and malicious evaluation of the song's lyrical content that enrages... I witnessed first hand the agony and feeling of helplessness he [James Young] endured."
  • The keyboard figure is a riff on "There She Is, Miss America," the song host Bert Parks would sing to the winner of the Miss America pageant.

Comments: 8

  • Stukka63 from St. Augustine, Fla.Maybe the greatest lyrics ever written.
  • Veronica from Pleasntville, NjIt lost it's class when it left Atlantic City where it started in 1921
  • Casey Price from Marion, VaTo Rob and Marin, Vanessa Williams didn't win the title of "Miss America" until 1985 this song was written way before that. I was always told the song was about her but that is false.
  • Ronnie from Denton, TxSeems like I heard somewhere that James Young was dating Phyllis George back in the early '70s and she dumped him and he wrote this song. Styx is from Chicago but back then before they got famous they were playing clubs around Dallas for awhile. In 1972 they did a free concert on the North Texas Univ. campus in Denton and I saw them. She was Miss America in 1971 and was going to North Texas at the time or shortly before. These are facts. Whether he was dating her, now I may have just imagined that, can't seem to find anything about it on the net. Seems like I read that somewhere but my memory is getting hazy as I'm a swiftly aging baby boomer and if you can remember the '70s you weren't there.
  • Marin from Orlando, FlRob, This was popular in the late 70's, Vanessa Williams was born around 1960 give or take a year. She does look fabulous though for her age. Speaking of the Penthouse issue, "Oh God, She's Nude", I still remember those pictures and thinking, "wow, she didn't think that one through before she did it... "
  • Rob from Palmyra, Vathis song reminds me of the scandal of vanessa williams the first black miss america. even though it came out probably before she was born!!
  • Allison from A Little Ol' Town In, MiAWESOME SONG!!! The synth at the beginning is awesome. Then when the guitar comes in, you can see why Styx put some influence on metal.

    Lyrics and singing just kick butt
  • Randy from Colerain Twp., Oh This song definitely ROCKS. Unfortunately, there are couple of other songs that JY has done that also rocks, that never had gained recognition...'Southern Woman' and 'Midnight Ride'. And although the guitar riff on 'Half-Penny, Two Penny' is similar to this song, that song also rocks.
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