"Kansas" is about a one-night stand. It's played tenderly and sung with sincere affection, rather than the callousness or indifference we might expect from such a scenario. Young's not sure if he can remember his temporary lover's name, but he finds peace in her presence all the same.
All the songs for Homegrown were written in the wake of Young's breakup with actress Carrie Snodgress. The failure of that relationship wounded Young so deeply that he buried the album for almost 50 years. It's probably the explanation for the edge of melancholy that runs throughout "Kansas."
Young traveled a great deal during the '70s. He was touring like mad and cranking out classic albums like cheeseburgers on a fast food assembly line. He dropped After the Gold Rush, Harvest, Tonight's the Night, and On the Beach in a five-year period ranging from 1970 to 1975. In between these legendary rock albums was Homegrown (though not released until 2020). It's little wonder Young was finding his companionship in one-night stands in his "bungalow with stucco."
All the songs for Homegrown were recorded in 1974 and 1975 ("Kansas" was finished on January 21, 1975) but didn't see the light of day for years afterwards. Some didn't emerge until 2020, as was the case with this studio version of "Kansas."
However, Young did bring "Kansas" out earlier when he played it live during a 1999 solo tour. He also played it a few times in 2007 and 2008.
This is one of three Homegrown songs with a one-word geographic place name for a title. The others are "Florida and "Mexico."
Young never actually says the word "Kansas" in the song and never refers to the state in any way.
Eddie Vedder often changes the words when he sings "Yellow Ledbetter." The basic story is about a guy whose brother dies in the first Gulf War. Apparently, bad news in the army is given in yellow envelopes.