Airdate – Jan 22, 2023
How hit records come about are stories in themselves. Such was the case for a 70s album-oriented progressive rock band who ended up with a commercially successful single in 1978 thanks to the band’s guitarist experimenting with finger exercises to learn fingerpicking …
Fingerpicking or fingerstyle guitar is the technique of playing the guitar or bass guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to the fingers.
In experimenting with this, band member, Kerry Livgren, devised a guitar line for a song. When his wife heard what he was doing, she remarked how much she liked the melody and encouraged him to write some lyrics for it.
Livgren was somewhat conflicted to do so because it was a radical departure from the band’s signature style that catered to those who were into progressive rock, hard rock and arena rock. At the time, the band had quite a cult following thanks to their album releases and their ability to sell out arenas and stadiums throughout North America, Europe and Japan.
However, Livgren did follow through and played a rough demo of the song for his bandmates. After some “stunned silence,” fellow band members said, “That’s our next single.”
To give you an appreciation of how much this song was a departure from the group’s identity, here is what band member, Phil Ehart, had to say about it years later in 1989: “We’re a hard rock band that’s known mostly for a ballad we did [over] ten years ago. We’re an album band & it’s a fluke [if any] of our songs was a hit single.”
Released in January of 1978, the song would go to #6 on Billboard Hot 100 and remain on the charts for 20 straight weeks. It is certified triple platinum in the U.S. selling over 3,000,000 copies.
The song has been described as a meditation on mortality and the inevitability of death with the lyrical theme bearing a striking resemblance to biblical passages.
After its release, the band, Kansas, really became mainstream and were no longer “Dust In The Wind,” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song:
This “Moments In Time” story is yet another example of a “golden oldie” or forgotten favorite that earned its place in the evolution of Rock & Roll.