Dust in the Wind
Writer(s): Kerry Livgren (see lyrics here)
Released: January 16, 1978
First Charted: January 27, 1978
Peak: 6 US, 3 CB, 3 GR, 5 HR, 2 RR, 6 AC, 1 CL, 3 CN, 52 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.2 UK, 3.28 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 221.3 video, 515.76 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
The progressive rock group Kansas formed in Topeka, Kansas in 1973. After three albums, they broke through in 1976 with Leftoverture, a four-time platinum seller which reached #5 on the album chart. The album was fueled by the success of “Carry on Wayward Son.” It was the band’s first chart entry, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually selling four million copies.
They followed up in 1977 with the album Point of Know Return. It proved the group’s success wasn’t a fluke as it also achieved four million in sales and went to #4 on the album chart. That album sent three songs on to the charts – the title cut (#28), “Portrait (He Knew)” (#64), and “Dust in the Wind” (#6). Songfacts.com said the latter is “perhaps the most famous acoustic rock song ever recorded.” SF
Interestingly, “Dust in the Wind” was passed over as the first single, but started getting radio airplay anyway while “Point of Know Return” was being promoted as the lead single. When it fell out of the top-40, Kansas rush-released the single for “Dust in the Wind.” It became the most successful song of the band’s career, at least from a chart perspective. Sales wise, it topped three million in sales; only “Carry On” did better. Both songs were written by Kerry Livgren, a founding member of Kansas who played guitars and keyboards. However, it was Steve Walsh, the band’s lead singer, who sang on the track.
Livgren developed the guitar line for the song through developing an exercise to learn finger picking. His wife, Vicci, liked the melody and encouraged him to write lyrics to accompany it. WK He was inspired to write about “the true value of material things and the meaning of success” SF by the line “For all we are is dust in the wind” from a book of Native American poetry. SF
The band had nearly finished the Point of Know Return album when Jeff Glixman, the producer, asked if anyone had any more songs. SF Livgren reluctantly played “Dust in the Wind.” His bandmates responded with stunned silence and the question “Kerry, where has this been?” WK Livgren actually fought against including it, saying “I tend to like the more bombastic things, like ‘The Wall.’” SF
Billboard praised the song for its “evocative lyrics” and “catchy melody.” WK Cashbox cited its “excellent vocals and harmonies and an impactful lyric.” WK Ultimate Classic Rock’s Eduardo Rivadavia said it was “a stark and gentle lament that bridges the group’s transition from intimidating prog rockers to accessible hitmakers.” WK
First posted 12/28/2022.