When Kerry Livgren wrote and performed “Carry On My Wayward Son,” it became the one hit single that Kansas was missing in their quest for stardom. It reached as high as the 11th spot on the Billboard charts by 1977.
However, their first hit single never reached the heights of their next top hit. Livgren and Kansas recorded “Dust in the Wind” shortly afterwards. It reached Billboard’s sixth spot in 1978.
The two most recognizable Kansas songs both have a lot of depth and meaning in their lyrics, but they also have conflicting tones. “Carry On My Wayward Son” drives home a message of encouragement through adversity while “Dust in the Wind” is contemplative about the emptiness of the world.
Carry On My Wayward Son
Livgren explained the thought behind “Carry On My Wayward Son” in a 2004 interview.
“It’s an autobiographical song,” he said. “Parallel to my musical career I’ve always been on a spiritual sojourn, looking for truth and meaning. It was a song of self-encouragement. I was telling myself to keep on looking and I would find what I sought.”
He authentically acknowledges his flaws, a mark of the spiritual journey in his life that he’s consistently been open about.
“Masquerading as a man with a reason/ My charade is the event of the season/ And if I claim to be a wise man, well/ It surely means that I don’t know”
The final verse of the song wraps the narrative together with a positive tone that indicates a resolution to the “wayward” behavior.
“Now your life’s no longer empty/ Surely heaven waits for you”
Dust in the Wind
The lyrics to “Dust in the Wind” have some of the same themes about Livgren’s spiritual journey. However, the tone of the song is much more mellow than “Carry On My Wayward Son.”
“Dust in the Wind” brings in philosophical ideas that go as far as the meaning of life. It can bend the minds of listeners with a powerful affect.
“Same old song/ Just a drop of water in an endless sea/ All we do/ Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see”
While the thought of “Dust in the Wind” isn’t the most upbeat, the song has stood the test of time for over our decades as a thought-provoking masterpiece.
Kansas- The Best of Both Worlds
The ability of Livgren to blend his personal beliefs about life and his spiritual journey into two conflicting beats and messages is impressive. It provides fans of Kansas with a choice of their favorite for their favorite style.
When Kansas visits the Keswick Theatre in June, they can enjoy the electric guitar in “Carry On My Wayward Son” for an energetic mood. They can also hear the meditative lyrics of “Dust in the Wind ” to feel a different kind of emotion.
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