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Weekend Songs: Kansas, ‘Carry On Wayward Son’

Kansas, 'Carry On Wayward Son'
Kirshner Records

Classic rock is about heavy hooks, power chords, and tight harmonies, but it’s also about letting loose and enjoying the good times — and there’s no better time than Friday evening, when we pick up our paycheck, punch out of work, and enjoy a couple days of much-needed rest and relaxation.

This weekend, we’re paying tribute to a song that never sounded better than when it was regularly being blared out of the 8-track decks in Camaro sound systems on Friday nights around the country: ‘Carry On Wayward Son,’ the leadoff single from Kansas‘ 1976 release, ‘Leftoverture.’ Although the band’s first couple of albums had failed to make much of a dent on the charts, ‘Leftoverture’ turned into a Top Five hit, due largely to the massive success enjoyed by this song; in fact, its single edit rose all the way to Number 11 on the Billboard charts, giving Kansas an early taste of worldwide fame (and a signature song in the bargain).

Like a number of guitarist Kerry Livgren’s early compositions, ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ explores themes of spiritual yearning and discovery, which made it a bit of an odd fit for Top 40 radio, even during the prog-friendly ’70s. But if the lyrics cast an eye toward the heavens, the arrangement was heavily rooted in good old-fashioned boogie rock, complete with plenty of heavy guitar riffs (including one that may have been lifted from Journey‘s ‘I’m Gonna Leave You‘) and a chorus that immediately embeds itself deep in the listener’s memory. While ‘Leftoverture’ failed to deliver another single with as much impact as ‘Carry On,’ it did herald a period of massive (albeit relatively short-lived) sales success for Kansas, who saw their commercial profile truly take off with 1977′s ‘Point of Know Return’ LP.

Like a lot of their peers, Kansas weathered some extreme ups and downs during the ’80s and ’90s, including a long list of label changes and lineup variations. But the band is still performing today — in fact, they’re celebrating their 40th anniversary this year with an extensive series of dates that will take one of rock’s most legendarily hard-touring groups across the country one more time. While the guys in Kansas are probably on a tour bus while you read this, you have the luxury of listening to them right now: Just scroll down a bit to where we’ve embedded the ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ video, hit play, turn up the volume, and let your weekend start now.

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Watch Kansas’ ‘Carry On Wayward Son’

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