Friday, June 28, 2013

Classic Songs: Dust in the Wind

Pressed for time, and feeling like doing something a bit different, today I'm here to talk to you about one of my favorite songs of all time, by one of my favorite bands of all time. The band is Kansas, and the song is "Dust in the Wind". Kansas was, in the 1970s, the heyday of progressive rock, one of the biggest bands in the world, certainly the United States. They have a pretty excellent 70s catalogue all around, but in the mid-70s they put out two chart topping hit albums back to back, 1976s "Leftoverture", and 1977's "Point of Know Return". Both albums together have some of the absolute best songs the band ever put out, in fact some of the absolute best music ever made, in my opinion. But it was on the latter that a last-second edition became one of the most timeless, memorable hits of all time.

One of the single coolest album covers of all time.

Originally written as a finger-picking exercise by guitarist Kerry Livgren, the principle figure behind most of the band's deeper, more esoteric lyrics. His wife had told him he should make a full song out of it, so he wrote the melancholy, philosophical lyrics that are now so well regarded, unsure if his bandmates would accept it. But they accept it they did, and a late, "throw away" addition to the album became the biggest hit the band ever had, even compared to "Carry On Wayward Son". Some bands manage to write that one song that elevates from "hit" to "timeless classic", more of a crossover phenomenon that people not even fans of rock music may hear and recognize. Queen had "We Are the Champions", Led Zeppelin had "Stairway to Heaven", Blue Oyster Cult had "Don't Fear the Reaper", and Kansas had "Dust in the Wind".

Kerry Livgren is on the far left.

The first time I heard this song, it was totally random, at a local bar & grill joint with my great uncle, and I just kind of heard it faintly in the background and it really spoke to me. I'm surprised I hadn't heard it earlier than the age of 15 or so, but this was my first exposure to it. I asked him "Who does this?" and he thought it was "Kansas or somebody", so I later looked them up on the internet, and bam. Instant love. The bittersweet tone of the song is both sad and soothing, the lyrics both simple yet profound. It instantly became one of my absolute favorite songs, and it has remained arguably my favorite song of all time, even though my favorite band of all time is Metallica. It just has the complete package, from the simple guitar melody, to lead singer Steve Walsh's (at the time) perfect vocals, to my favorite band-member Robby Steinhardt's (the majestic looking mountain man in the middle up there) soul-stirring viola solo. The song is short but sweet, and it does all it needs to do in that time. It's just so funny that, much like James Hetfield's "Nothing Else Matters" ballad, this song was something that almost didn't even get recorded, and yet it wound up becoming a timeless, amazing classic.

When I saw Kansas live for the first and only time back in 2006 or so, even though they're all old by now, and my boy Robby was no longer touring with them (for health reasons), when they played this song, it was still an amazing experience, and to borrow an expression from pro wrestling lingo, I totally "marked out". 

I shall leave you with the lyrics, and an awesome video of the song to enjoy. Cheers!

"I close my eyes, only for a moment and the moment's gone.
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity.
Dust in the wind.....All they are is dust in the wind.

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea.
All we do, crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see.
Dust in the wind....All we are is dust in the wind.

Now don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.
It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy. 

Dust in the wind....all we are is dust in the wind.
Dust in the wind....everything is dust in the wind...."

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