In this ukulele video lesson, I'll be teaching you how to play Dust in the Wind, which is one of the best-known songs by the band Kansas.
It comes from the album Point of Know Return, released in 1977. The song was a major hit, reaching number six on the Billboard hot 100 during April 1978. For the band Kansas, it was the only top 10 Billboard song they had.
The song was certified gold in the 45 RPM single format after selling one million units. A testament to the enduring popularity of the song is the fact that, 25 years after it was released, it was certified gold once more in digital format. This was the only single released by the band Kansas that achieved this level of sales. The song has remained extremely popular, recently being covered by Arcade Fire.
The album Point of Know Return is largely a progressive rock affair, full of imaginative lyrics, complex instrumental lines and in many ways exemplifying the longer song formats and more intricate compositional techniques characteristic of progressive rock in the 1970s. Kansas was not initially enthusiastic about including Dust in the Wind on the album and, in fact, the song, written by Kerry Livgren, actually originated as an acoustic guitar exercise. Livgren’s wife suggested that he add lyrics to the song, which would likely make it a hit.
The song was not initially included on the list to be laid down on the Point of Know Return album. It was a last-minute inclusion and Livgren was convinced that the band would not be taken seriously with putting the song on the album. He played it for them and the band proved to be very enthusiastic about including it, something which the writer himself opposed. Outvoted on the matter, Livgren was no enthusiast about the song or including it on the album, but it ended up being the band’s most popular song during their career.
One of the reasons that the song has achieved such remarkable longevity is the fact that its format is not one that restricts it to the venues where progressive rock would typically be heard. The acoustic guitar line gives it a mellow flavor that makes it entirely appropriate for easy listening and adult contemporary stations. The association with a well-known progressive rock band, however, makes it equally suitable for inclusion on the playlists of classic rock stations.
Dust in the Wind is well-known for its introspective and philosophical lyrical content. According to Songfacts, Livgren was true to what he was thinking when he wrote the lyrics to the song. The initial inspiration came from a piece of Native American poetry. The line that set his mind in motion to write the lyrics for Dust in the Wind was “For all we are is dust in the wind”, a very similar line to both the lyrics and the overall sentiment of the song.
Kansas was doing very well for itself at the time that the song was recorded. The lyrics express the futility of material success, the transient nature of life and, set over the somewhat mournful guitar line and very well-known and highly hummable violin solo, the song continues to make an impression.
Dust in the Wind has a light, repetitive riff that underpins the majority of the song. There are relatively few chord changes, and the adherence to conventional chord changes tends to make the song easy to remember and sing along with. While many of the more complex offerings from Kansas – and there are many, the band was notable for their musical skill – have largely fallen out of favor, this uncharacteristic song for the band remains the one they are likely most well known for.Return to Home Page
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