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Dust In The Wind

by

Kansas



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Kansas guitarist Kerry Livgren wrote this after reading a book of Native American poetry. The line that caught his attention was "For All We Are Is Dust In The Wind."

This got him thinking about the true value of material things and the meaning of success. The band was doing well and making money, but Kerry realized that in the end, he would eventually die just like everyone else. No matter our possessions or accomplishments, we all end up back in the ground.
Kerry Livgren wrote this song when he was under pressure to write a follow-up to the group's hit, "Carry On Wayward Son." While playing his acoustic guitar exercises, his wife suggested that putting lyrics to the patterns would yield his hit song. "I didn't think it was a Kansas-type song," he said. "She said, Give it a try anyway. Several million records later, I guess she was right." (for more on the song, check out our Interview with Kerry Livgren.)
Kansas was almost done writing and rehearsing the Point of Know Return album when their producer, Jeff Glixman, asked if they had any more songs. Livgren reluctantly played this song for his bandmates on acoustic guitar, insisting they wouldn't like it because it was not Kansas. To his surprise, they loved the song and insisted they record it. Livgren then fought against his own song, but was overruled. "Dust In The Wind" became their biggest hit, but Livgren never did think very highly of it. "I tend to like the more bombastic things, like 'The Wall,' he told us.
This slow, acoustic song was not typical of Kansas, whose previous singles included "Carry On My Wayward Son" and "Point of Know Return." It put the band in the position of having their best-known song be one that doesn't reflect their sound.
Kerry Livgren became an evangelical Christian in 1980. He says of his songwriting in the '70s, "I was only expressing my own searching for something," adding, "If you look at my lyrics, even 'Dust in the Wind' is a song about the transitory nature of our physical lives. That falls under the umbrella heading of God."
This was the second big hit for Kansas, following "Carry On My Wayward Son." With two hits under their belt, they were able to headline Arena Rock shows into the late '70s. Later hits for the band include "Play the Game Tonight" (1982, #17 US) and "All I Wanted" (1986, #19 US).
In the movie Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bill and Ted go back in time and share philosophy with Socrates, who is impressed when Ted, played by Keanu Reeves philosophizes "All we are is dust in the wind."
This was the first acoustic Kansas song, and perhaps the most famous acoustic Rock song ever recorded. The song crossed over to a variety of formats, as Rock, Country, and Adult Contemporary radio stations all played it.
This song was featured in the comedy Old School starring Will Ferrell and Luke Wilson. Frank (played by Ferrell) sings it at Blue's funeral to commemorate the death of the 90 year old fraternity member. (thanks, Aislinn - Hamilton, Canada)
There was one more verse to this song that Livgren wrote, but never recorded.
The song has been covered and featured in thousands of artistic and commercial entities. It was used in an episode of The Simpsons, and baseball player Bernie Williams played a jazz guitar version of this on an album he released in 2003 called The Journey Within.
Kansas
Kansas Artistfacts
More Kansas songs
More songs with weather conditions in the title
More songs inspired by poems
More acoustic songs
More songs about the dangers of materialism

Comments (79):

On January 22nd 1978 "Dust In The Wind" by Kansas entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on April 9th it peaked at #6 (for 2 weeks) and spent 20 weeks on the Top 100 (and 7 of those 20 weeks were on the Top 10)...
It also reached #6 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and #3 in Canada...
Was track 7 on the group's fifth studio album, 'Point of Know Return', the album reached #4 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
Two other tracks from the album also made the Top 100; "Point of Know Return" (#28) and "Portrait (He Knew)" (#64).
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Sarah Brightman did a gorgeous cover of this song.
- esskayess, Dallas, TX
I heard "Carry On My Wayward Son" by Kansas and immediately could relate to it. It seemed like I was experiencing every line in the lyrics of that song in my life at that moment. I then heard "Point of Know Return" and it too described my current perspective in life at that year. I thought, now this is really weird how this band is almost writing songs that seem to be about me. Then "Dust In The Wind" came out and that really hit the nail in the head. Exactly how I felt and still feel about my existence. I could have sworned that that song was written for me. This is the song I am requesting my family to play for me at my funeral. Ironically, I was born in Kansas.
- Peter, Culver City, CA
Guitarist Rich Williams recalled that former bandmate Kerry Livgren never believed that his song "Dust
In The Wind" would ever become the band's most enduring hit: "Y' know, he just had it on an old,
scratchy tape recorder, you know -- one guitar. As soon as we heard that horrible rendition of it, we
heard it as plain as day. That was a hit. That was our next hit. That's it, period. And, y'know, Kerry
never really saw it as a hit. It was just, y'know, 'Here's something else we might try, y'know? It's
not really what we do, but. . . ' The rest is history."
- DeeTheWriter, Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation
Very singable:D
- Budoshi, Sandnessjøen, Norway
mike- from seattle wash......... the lyrics are JUST A DROP OF WATER IN AN ENDLESS SEA!!!!!!!!!!! NOT just to drop a quarter in an embassy."- OMG
- Lisa, Eveleth, MN
Was there a movie in the 70's that featured Dust in the Wind?
- james, arlington, TX
Very Biblical, ties to KL's strong faith. Just like at funerals, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the dust from Genesis (the book not the band) was the material/matter GOD used for creation.
Read the book of Escl., mostly written by King Solomon to get the perspective of meaninglessness of life...without GOD.
- ALAN, Scto , CA
Great song. great acoustic guitar I love to play this. I know the lyrics can be depressing but I find it to mellow and cool. I suspect some ganja had been consumed while writing this.I do agree that a lot of the grunge heroin influenced music is much more depressing
- brian, boston, MA
We really are no more than dust in the wind, physically. That shouldn't be depressing to anyone who focuses on the spiritual above the physical. My responsibility is to leave this world a better place than I found it, not be absorbed in myself. Focusing on myself produces earthly effects, but impacting this world well produces effects that will carry over to eternity. Thank you, by the way, Michael from Shirley, Indiana, for the Ecclesiastes reference.
- Drew, B\'ham, AL
This is the most honest portrayal of life as we know it that has ever been recorded, whether on paper or vinyl.
- John, Airdrie, AB
After years of appreciating this song, it occurred to me that the state of Kansas could be considered just a bunch of "dust in the wind"
- Bonz, Jefferson City, MO
ever watch bible prophecy and Daniel Chapter 11? it plays dust in wind, the music with history, hits you hard how we as humans fight for ideas, ideals, just to die, and it all falls apart, to dust. Over and over again, history repeats itself, with some of the greatest leaders, nations to rise and fall, all to end the same, dust. Hard to see the lost of so many human lives, for what in the end? Look where we are now, doing the same thing over again. When will we learn?
- Heather, clarksville, AR
It is priority that we must not endure this song as a depression. It is knowledge to acquire and interpret, then to apply to life.
- Sgt. Pepper, Pepperland, TX
It is one of the most beautiful melodies ever written combined with probably the most depressing - no, a better word is terrifying messages there is. What could possibly fill a rationale intelligent being with greater or more unsettling dread than to contemplate an end to it's existance? - to realize that all of the thoughts, knowledge, struggles, memories, understanding, emotions, joys, insights and experiences of an entire lifetime are extinguished in an instant, never to be present again - and that all of those days and hours and seconds of thriving amount to nothing more, in the long-term or overall scheme of things, than, as one writer put it, "...an eddy in the primordial slime..." Yes, it is a depressing idea as mentioned by so many of the posts here. But it's not true. Look deep within yourself and you will know that - and you will realize that you are eternal and that all the myriad aspects of your life are meaningful and even more than that, are just the beginning of a neverending progression of so much better things to come.
- Steve, Salt Lake, UT
Sad but True!
- joel, Haifa, Israel
the scorpions version is pretty good.but the original is better
- greg, slidell, LA
Chester Bennington (Lead singer of Linkin Park)also did a live cover of this song with acoustic guitar. I have it on my iTunes. It was then that I realised what an amazing voice he has.
- Kim, Exeter, United Kingdom
Always have loved this song, maybe what is said in the lyrics are after we die, we are still around like dust in the wind, sand on a beach, rainbow in the sky,and all that is beautiful that lives on.in the hearts and minds of others. The violins really add to the song. Makes it all the more beautiful.
- JoAnn, Portsmouth, VA
I'm a Buddhist. Not only I love this song but I also respect it.
- Tanit, Bangkok, Thailand
This song is so depressing. It makes me want to slit my wrists. I have to change the channel everytime I hear it. It makes me feel like we are just a waste of time on earth.
- Charlotte, Houston, TX
A truly beautiful song. I love the lyrics.
- Lilly, Chicago, IL
To MICHAEL from TORONTO, ALBERTA: Toronto is the capital of Ontario.
- bob, owen sound, ON
It was used in an episode of "Family Guy" on 2009-03-15. Peter is shown on a montage walk through Quihog (sp?) and the song is playing.
- Sean, Chicago, IL
I remember when it first came out and we loved the music alone without lyrics. I can't speak for others but my little group of 70's generation kids just cranked up the radio and enjoyed. If we had to have a discussion about a song; the station got changed. But what we learned from all that was basically this- depressing or not-it really is a fact of life- so what are you going to do with yours? It's all a matter of personal perspective. And yes, Bryan there are lots of songs that are more depressing than "Dust in the Wind". See there, yet another opinion....
- Doris, Corbin, KY
As Haitian, it's one of the most famous songs I ever heard in my life. I was only nineteen when I heard it for the first time on Voice Of The America. It's very spiritual. It's such a soft song.
Thinking on this song means simplifying life by thinking on his own destiny.
François, Cap-Haïtien, Haïti (WI)
- François, Cap-Haïtien, Haiti
Livgren's acoustic work is perfect, and I love the little pauses he inserts.
Great bit of faint vocalizing at the very end, too.
- oldpink, New Castle, IN
Good song. Was used in an episode of My Name Is Earl.
- JE, Wheelerville, PA
The song is about when we pause to consider our lives accomplishments and contributions. And how our life, so seems like a blink of an eye and its about to be over. Yes, live your life with vigor and gusto...possibly a little humility will help. All the money in the world will not change the inevitable that's waiting for all of us. May Kansas music and their spirit live on forever and fill the hearts of generations to come, with Hope, Peace and respect for our fellow humans.
- Charles, Southaven, MS
This song shows how short life really is and how we should embrace what we have while it lasts. Beautiful song.
- James, Paterson, NJ
To MICHAEL from TORONTO, ALBERTA:
Since you seem to be making a pretty outrageous claim that Kansas and Kerry Livgren plagiarized or stole this song from your wife, it might be helpful to the other readers if you’d explain just how a pretty accomplished songwriter like Livgren happened to acquire the song’s lyrics and melody from your wife. Did the New York songwriting company sell it to Livgren? I happen to think you’re full of s--t, but I’d love for you to prove me and other Kansas fans wrong because I value truth more than I do the band Kansas. So please explain to all of us just how the song was stolen and update us on the status of the lawsuit you and your wife must have filed after hearing the song on the radio. It would also be helpful if you could limit your explanation to only facts that can be substantiated. For example, tell us which courthouse in the US or Canada where we might find the public record about your song piracy lawsuit. Name the New York songwriting company and the individuals to which you turned over her song. This website claims there was a 4th verse to the song that never made it to the final version of the song released on Point Of Know Return. Since you claim your wife wrote the song, why don’t you share that 4th verse with all of us readers so we can compare it to the verse that’s in the archives of Kirshner Records somewhere?
- JFV, Philadelphia, PA
Youre my boy, Blue...
- Clubber Lange, Ocean Gate, NJ
You mean its not about Vietnam? -Dustin Nguyen, come on nguyen is a very common surname in Vietnam. Then you've got "same old song"-could that be the drums of war? "just to drop a quarter in an embassy."- Obviously not enough $$ spent on diplomacy. Then there is "nothing last forever but the earth and sky"- the constant battle for ground position and air superiority. "And all your money won't another minute buy"- you could be at an overseas payphone and never have enough small coins when you call home...... What years were the Dustbowl?
- mike, seattle, WA
I wish some day the world will finally realize Kansas did not write the song " Dust in the Wind",
Katherine Kowal deserves full credit.
- MICHAEL, TORONTO, AL
We were created out of dust and into it we shall return, but do we think that we were created in play ( without any purpose ) ?!!!, do we think that we will be left neglected ( without being ordered or prevented. without being punished or rewarded ) ?!!!, our whole duty is to worship our Almighty Lord alone, the Creater of earth and skies, to ask for help from him alone, to follow his straight way the way of Adam, Noah, Ibraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.
- Ali, Tripoli, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
The best way to really appreciate "Dust In the Wind" by Kansas is to pick up and dust the old Bible that is sitting on your shelf, table or tucked away somewhere, and read the book of Ecclesiastes. Let me give you a little snippet of both the song and the Bible to make my point:

"Now don't hang on. Nothin' lasts forever but the earth and sky."

"Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever." Ecclesiastes 1:4 (New International Version [NIV] )

What a wonderful way to come to one of the books of the Bible with it already summed up in a song, though may be unintentional by Kerry Livgren. But here is part of the closing dialog in the same book of the Bible in the near end:

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV)

Now I understand that not everybody thinks and sees things the way I do. It is just basically "my opinion" among the many others that is on my screen now. I respect each and every one even if I don't like a few here or there. But for those who are truly searching for the best way to understand the song "Dust In the Wind," This is the ONLY thing I know of to really get the whole heart of this beautiful work of art. Thought provoking.
- Michael, Shirley, IN
Covered beautifully by William Joseph on his first album "Within"
- Katrina, Pullman, WA
I think the lyric, "All your money won't another minute buy," is a slap at modern materialistic tendencies. You can amass all the riches you want, but in the end, you're going to die just like everyone else and you can't buy your way out of it. When you're dead, how is your fortune going to help you out?
- Bryan, Atlanta, GA
I can relate to this song. Is it pessimistic, maybe. At the age of 8, I had my first brain surgery, I've had between 80 and 90 int the past 14 years. I might be depressed(who can blame me), but it's always been one of my favorites.
- Michael, Miami, FL
Even Kerry Livgren admitted this song is terrible, but he said he couldn't hate it, because it's been played so much.....ya gotta love royalties, eh Kerry??
- Benny, Chattanooga, TN
The song was written of course by a pessimistic person because she was angry at the world when she wrote this song, he life of being very sucess driven to suceed would have to take a sharp turn back, she was 17 years of age when MS hit her like a brick.
- MICHAEL, TORONTO, AL
The songs originality come from my wife, a Toronto born and raise 8th level Royal Conservatory pianist,who was very angry when she composed this song, she recovering from the near death experience, near to life experience of loosing all her faculties: passions such as the art of dance, singing, acting and writting songs.
Kathy, felt she lost that and more I know to this day its hurts her and especially me that Kansas took her song away from her and made it sound it was theirs', but if it wasn't for her Kansas would never had this song to call their own.
- MICHAEL, TORONTO, AL
I think this song is written from the point of view of a pessimistic person, reminding people that they are just dust.
- Kevin, Springfield, PA
This song is one of my best songs..Also the song was sang by SCORPIONS..Enjoy it guys..
- Ahmad, Jordan, United States
Kansas are famous for songs with very complicated and articulate lyrics. This really is one of the more simple. If you have the chance to check out the lyrics of "Icarus- borne on wings of steel"; "the wall"; "hopelessly human" or "closet Chronicles" you will appreciate the work that has gone into each song. brilliant lyricist.
- ken, Tinonee, Australia
Actually, the line "all your money wont another minute buy" i think, truly means that when it is ur time to go, like ur death, u cannot "but your way out" u will die, but if you don't happen to die at the moment of all lost hope, that means that isn't ur time to die,that's what i believe it means but ya
- Raphael, Salt Lake City, UT
The line "All your money won't another minute buy" isn't really true. Research has shown that rich people live longer than poor people
- Jeff, Columbia, MD
They are popular in Asia. I have this track, love it, so original. I can't recollect this being aired here in UK. Any more Kansas tracks please?
- Annie, London
I would like to think that the lyricist has read the Shelley poem, Ozymandias. Check it out.
- Melody, Fort Lauderdale, FL
In answer to the question, "I just want to know how it made its way into a car commercial."

As with many artists, Kerry is not required to be consulted before the use of his songs. He found out about it when he saw the billboard in Times Square.

If anyone finds the song depressing, check out "The Navigator", his other acoustic guitar song from his solo release, Collector's Sedition Volume I. This song can be seen as "answering" Dust in the Wind.

Bill Evans (with Kerry Livgren)
- Bill, New York, NY
Wow...amazing. Noone said this song was about drugs...THANK YOU!!
- Brandon, Peoria, IL
This song's got a lot of sentimental value to me. I first heard it when i was leaving jr.high and moving on to high school, and everything was changing. It reminds me of how time never slows down and you really have to cherish every minute it before it is gone, because you can only have a moment once. This is probably my favorite song, and it's also a really good song to sing along to when you're feeling sad.
- Kimberley, Frazier Park, CA
This song was on an episode of The Simpsons when Bart realizes he is not a little kid any more.This song plays when he destroys all his toys from his childhood.
- Justin, Ecorse, MI
In an interview with Kerry Livgren a while back, He said when he wrote the song, He was searching for somthing. He dabbled in a lot of things until he found christianity. After he became a christian, a lot of the songs on Vinyl Confessions are written with spiritual references. Once at a concert, they would say this is one of Kerry's spirtual songs.
Sherry PA
- Sherry, Ridley Park, PA
i love this song. i dont really know a lot about kansas, but i just kinda stumbled onto this song and loved it. anyone recommend any other kansas songs?
- jordan, shokan, NY
i love this song eave dough it is depressig and talks about loosing hope and giving up "dont hang on nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky" and also that part in old scool is great
- elie, the u.k, England
If you want to hear Kansas' best music, get Masque and Leftoverture.
- Steve, Fenton, MO
This song was also used in the HIGHLANDER tv series very very fitting to the series excellent song!!
- Paul, lancashire uk, England
This song has such a deep meaning, but it has been covered by so many artists and in so many movies, that it has lost all meaning.

I'm never buying a Lexus now, that's for sure.
- Kevin, Grosse Pointe, MI
I Played "Dust In The Wind" at my fathers funeral when i was 16 and i know that when my mother dies, they will play it too so the song represents the worst time in my live and a coming up time that i am not looking foward to. And now they have "Dust in the Wind" as the background music of a car commercial and radio ad whitch drives me crazy and just reminds me daily of my fathers death and my saddness..its a pretty depressing song.
- Lisa, annapolis, MD
My cousin works as a sound girl (i dont know the proffesional name) in the movie industry for movies, commercials, and music videos.... and she just happens to be friends with the drummer from Kansas. She gets passes, free concert tickets, no joke, Im serious.
- Galina, New London, CT
Even though it was a departure from hard rocking hits like Carry On Wayward Son and Point of No Return, Dust in the Wind is my favorite Kansas song. It sounds a lot like a folk song.
- Howard, St. Louis Park, MN
The simplicity with which an idea of such depth has been brought out is remarkable, an eternal truth put across so plainly almost makes it depressing'. And yet, it is this simplicity which makes the song so pretty'.. What I like so much about it is that there are no reasons, no analysis, no instruction, it purely about a feeling'.. The simple yet beautiful music compliments the words only too well'..

Its definitely one of the most beautiful songs I ever heard'...
- Arushi, Delhi, India
This song is depressing and beautiful. To whoever said grunge rock is more depressing: people whining about how crappy their life is not nearly as deep is this song is.

This is a beautiful song, and I love it, but lately it has kind of been getting to me. It seems a little...atheistic. "All we are is dust in the wind?" I like to think that we are much more than that.
- Jonathan, St. James, MO
I just want to know how it made its way into a car commercial.
- Aylin, Montreal, Canada
This song is so beautiful. The guitar patterns are easy to learn too.
- Aylin, Montreal, Canada
Not to say this was the meaning but to mean it's a song about life and death and your short time on this earth to exsist. To me it's saying to be yourself and do your best to be happy for most lives come and go and don't make much of a difference to change the flow of things and nothing ever changes the passing of time. But to add my own personal note on the song...If you get enough dust and put it together you've got something you can see...It makes a difference.
- April, Natick, MA
This is the greatest Kansas song hands down, I love this song, very good song
- Tim, Dalton, MA
i thought that this was about the paratroopers in WWII
- Josh, Farmington, UT
If you don't think there are any songs more depressing than dust in the wind you've never really listened to any grunge rock.
- Mark, Levan, UT
actually this song is about the sentence " we come as dust and thus we leave the same" or something like that.
- Jessika, courtaney, CA
This is a beautiful song, if not slightly depressing. It really doesn't fit into the AOR format of the Point Of Know Return album, but it's pretty nonetheless. Awesome song, though not the best. The best Kansas material exists outside of "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust In The Wind" and "Point Of Know Return." Try "The Pinnacle", "Song For America", "Journey From Mariabronn", "Closet Chronicles", or "On The Other Side" to get a taste of just what Kansas really is (or was).
- Dick, Detroit, MI
Speaking of Kerry Livgren you can catch him on tour with the band Proto~Kaw(pre-kansas).
http://www.protokaw.com/
- Eric, Dracut, MA
this is the best kansas song!
- gywn, niskayuna, NY
to me it's optimistic and full of hope and makes me live each moment to the fullest, nothing matters when we're gone.
- paul, malibu, CA
its depressin but it was funny when will sang it in Old School at blues funeral and vince talks about the old ppl dieing
- Caitlin, sailsbury, NC
This song was also covered very famously by the Scorpions and appeared on their album, Acoustica too.
- Taxi, Bombay, United States
I dont think there is any other song that can get someone more depressed than "Dust in the wind"
- Bryan, Colorado Springs, CO
The originality of the song makes it great.
- Bob, Levittown, PA
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