Carry on Wayward Son
Writer(s): Kerry Livgren (see lyrics here)
Released: November 23, 1976
First Charted: December 11, 1976
Peak: 11 US, 7 CB, 6 GR, 8 HR, 5 RR, 1 CL, 51 UK, 5 CN, 58 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.4 UK
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 259.14 video, 459.32 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
“The now-familiar a cappella intro for ‘Carry on Wayward Son’ was the sonic hook that would help Kansas score their first major hit, a feat that was a long time coming for the band. Like many groups in the time period, Kansas toured and recorded relentlessly, supporting three albums that sold modestly despite their growing live following.” UCR
Steve Walsh, the band’s singer, ran into writer’s block while the band was working on their fourth album, 1976’s Leftoverture. However, guitarist Kerry Livgren shared a song he wrote just two days before the band started recording. SF The band was polishing songs they already had and not looking for new ones. When they heard Livgren’s idea for “Carry on Wayward Son,” “they knew the songwriting gold that they had on hand and went straight into the recording studio without even pausing to rehearse the track.” UCR It became the album’s lead track and the group’s first top-40 hit.
The song is about “a man embattled with the voices and visions in his head.” UCR Livgren said it was “partially about himself and the struggles and pressures he was facing at the time when the band's career was on the line.” SF While the song “expresses spiritual searching,” SF Livgren said it “was not written to express anything specifically religious.” SF He did, however, become an evangelical Christian in 1980. SF
The song is notable for its “very distinctive intro” SF with a cappella vocals. It “is driven forward by guitar riffing, organ swells and solos from nearly every member in the band.” UCR Even though the song ran nearly five and a half minutes, it felt “comparatively restrained” UCR “next to some of the proggier moments on Leftoverture.” UCR
First posted 7/15/2022; last updated 12/28/2022.
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