Dust In The Wind by Kansas (Kirshner, 1978)


Kansas was one of those bands that really confused me as a kid. First of all, how could a band have the same name as a state? That didn’t make any sense to me. Was the entire state of Kansas involved in the band? You could have also made the same argument for Boston or America or Chicago, but for some reason, I was cool with those. Not Kansas. I even gave Toto a pass. [although I would have loved to have seen Dorothy Moore singing Tin Man opening up for a twin bill of Toto & Kansas)

Then there was the fact that my mom wouldn’t let me listen to them. “They’re too loud”, she said. “It’s just noise. It makes no sense.” Well, she was on to something, especially when it came to progressive rock. That, combined with their dramatic old century album covers and the pictures of the band with their giant long hair made me think they could be a little scary. Then I heard Dust In The Wind on the radio and thought, how could that be Kansas? I could rock myself to sleep to that song. I’m not scared at all and my ears are fine. But I still had just enough insecurity to give them and the song a bit of intrigue to me.

Can you imagine anyone writing such a serious song devoid of irony nowadays? You would be completely torn apart. In fact, people do that to this song using it for punchlines in movies, like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure & Old School. And, like most hits are, it was written as an afterthought and recorded as the last song on Kansas’ Point of Know Return LP. Writer Kerry Livgren was picking a little tune out on his guitar as a finger exercise when his wife heard it and casually mentioned that he should write words to it. So he wrote some quick lyrics based on A Native American poem whose premise was ‘all that we are is dust in the wind’. Kerry used that thought and built the idea about how success and money don’t really mean anything when you’re dead. And then, ironically, this became the song which made him even more rich & famous than he was. Even in the digital age, he’s made at least a million dollars in download royalties.

Actually, it’s not a very cheery song, but it quite nicely broke up the Saturday Night Fever I’m-gonna-live-forever disco singles chart monopoly in early 1978, even taking the band onto the Country & Adult Contemporary charts. Maybe it was crazy-haired Phil Steinhardt’s violin/viola interplay. Maybe it was Steve Walsh’s straight-ahead impassioned delivery on lyrics like ‘and all your money won’t another minute buy‘, obviously written by a Jedi. Regardless, if any song should ever have been written about dust & wind, it should be by a group called Kansas.

Leave a comment


  1. W.B.

     /  March 10, 2015

    Even more ironic (and I found this from the files of Sony Music), Kansas recorded this simple-instrumentation guitar/violin/viola track in Nashville.

  2. Marie

     /  January 21, 2017

    I love you Steve Walsh for singing, Dust in the wind to us and T. U for singing this beautiful song. Much Love to you. This song is so true. So true.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: