January 1978: Kansas Releases "Dust in the Wind"

Kansas perform on stage, New York, 1978, L-R Rich Williams;Robby Steinhardt;Phil Ehart;Kerry Livgren;Dave Hope. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
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(Michael Putland/Getty Images)

By the beginning of 1978, Kansas was on a roll. The band's most recent album, Point of Know Return, had just come out in October 1977, and already a hit. The title track had cracked the Top 30, but it would pale in comparison to the chart performance of the follow-up.

"Dust in the Wind" was written by Kansas guitarist, Kerry Livgren, who was feeling the pressure of trying to duplicate the success of 1976 smash, "Carry On My Wayward Son," which had nearly broken into the Top 10, peaking at #11. Livgren was practicing his acoustic guitar scales when his better half made a fateful suggestion.

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"My wife was listening to me play it one day and she said, 'You know, that's really pretty. You should make a song out of that,'" Livgren admitted to Songfacts. "I didn't think it was a Kansas-type song. She said, 'Give it a try anyway.' Several million records later, I guess she was right."

Lyrically, the song was inspired by Bible passages and a book or Native American poetry, where Livgren found the line, "All we are is dust in the wind."

Like so many hits, "Dust in the Wind" very nearly never existed. Even after recording a demo, the guitarist just wasn't feeling the song. When the band's producer, Jeff Glixman, started prodding the guys for more material towards the end of the Point of Know Return recording sessions, he finally revealed the tune. Livgren was shocked to discover that everyone in the room loved it.

"Musically, though, it's not one of my favorite songs," he insisted years later. "I tend to like the more bombastic things, like 'The Wall.'"

Radio station programmers and fans would agree with the rest of Kansas, as the single would become a genuine hit record. Released on January 16, 1978, it would make a steady chart ascension before peaking at #6 the week of April 15, 1978. The #1 song in America that week: "Night Fever" by the Bee Gees.

In 2003, "Dust in the Wind" would be covered by actor Will Ferrell in a memorable scene from the raunchy comedy, Old School. It's why the song is often met with cries of "You're my boy, Blue!" whenever it's played.

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