A few years ago, I worked for an engineering firm in Tampa, and one of my coworkers once told a funny story about having gone to a Kansas concert in his youth, upset that they did not play the rock songs from the 1970’s that he had gone to see but instead had gone Christian. He was not a Christian. For several years, I roomed with a married couple who have since moved back to Florida themselves, and fairly religiously they watched the television show Supernatural, which uses “Carry On Wayward Son,” Kansas’ biggest hit, as their theme song. Both of these stories relate to the extent of influence that Kansas has had, as an artist whose Christian faith presents the voters of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with a thorny issue to deal with , given that their faith informed many of even their most popular songs before they were openly and avowedly Christians, and also that the influence of Kansas remains important in contemporary culture, long after their heyday. With two songs that are part of the essential canon for 1970’s rock music, and a larger body of successful singles and albums outside of that, Kansas makes a strong case for induction, and its absence even from the controversy of being snubbed is admittedly a bit puzzling.
The Influence Of Kansas
The influence of Kansas is a multifaceted and often a subtle one. On the one hand, their two most popular songs in particular have exhibited both a driving rock sound with a glorious guitar solo that encouraged other bands to attempt new levels of virtuosity themselves as well as an exploration of futility and vanity with beautiful acoustic and even orchestral touches. Both of these songs, and others, have been covered by a diverse set of musicians in multiple genres as diverse as Dream Theater, the Foo Fighters, the Oak Ridge Boys, Sarah Brightman, the Scorpions, and jazz singer and former New York Yankees great Bernie Williams . As has been mentioned previously, their biggest hit has served as the theme to the long-running show Supernatural, testament to the abiding connection between Kansas and matters of spiritual interest, whether Christian or otherwise. Additionally, the band’s music has served as the inspiration for the name of the cartoon Opus. That sort of broad influence suggests that Kansas’ music, even its more unfamiliar music, is worthy of recognition.
Why Kansas Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Aside from its influence, Kansas’ career and body of work merits induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. As far as their albums are concerned, the band has three multi-platinum albums, two platinum albums (including one live album), and four gold albums, including all of their albums released from 1974 to 1980. They were less successful in terms of their singles, but as a rock band it was less important for them to have hit singles, and they still ended up with seven top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Carry On Wayward Son,” “Dust In The Wind,” “Point Of Know Return,” “People Of The South Wind,” “Hold On, ” “Play The Game Tonight,” and “All I Wanted”), an enviable body of work for any band . Their live prowess, even when playing their more religiously inspired works, their studio brilliance and musical ambitions and their lasting cultural relevance and importance make them an important band more than forty years after their debut.
Why Kansas Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
There are no obvious reasons why Kansas isn’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, although the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has been slow in inducting essential acts from the 1970’s mainstream rock scene . Given the fact that the band’s music is still viewed as a touchstone of classic rock from the 1970’s, the fact that they have not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is puzzling, although as more acts from the decade are inducted it is likely that their absence, if it continues, will become more noticeable as time passes. The fact that their music was appealing both to fans as well as to critics suggests that they may not have as long to wait as others will, or at least we can hope so.
Verdict: Put them in, at least the initial lineup of the band. It is puzzling enough that Kansas has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame given their larger cultural influence and the enduring nature of their music. It is more puzzling that they are not considered among the biggest snubs, which is likely testament to just how many worthy acts have been snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and their lack of notoriety on the nostalgia tour circuit.
 See, for example:
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The reason why Kansas is not in the Rock and Roll HOF is because whoever is responsible for voting are should not be responsible for voting. I grew up in the 70’s and Kansas was a big part of my life. Anyone that could put the Red Hot Chile Peppers in the Hall and not Kansas is a complete idiot. I have told everyone that at my funeral, the have to play the live version of The Wall, it’s the best song I’ve ever heard.
I would suspect that the religious worldview of Kansas, and even their later turn towards Christian rock, definitely does them no favors with the nominating committee, regardless of how good their music is. That’s just my own opinion, though.
Kansas belongs in the HOF for several reasons. Their commercial success, their musical prowess, the timelessness of their music much of which remains in rotation, and also that the original 6 members stayed together for almost a decade. The fact the Kerry Livgren’s spiritual quest has undoubtedly exposed many listeners to the potential of Christ’s love is even more significant, especially for a band that was not a Christian band per se. I can think of no other band that explored spirituality, meaning and God in a commercial setting like Kansas did.
Thanks for your comment 🙂
Well said, they were instrumental in my journey to become a Christian.
I suspect that is the case for quite a few people, who saw themselves as wayward sons and daughters. 🙂
Kerry Livgren got me more into Eastern philosophy, spiritualism, and environmentalist more than anything. His Christian period didn’t start until the heyday of the band was over (Point of No Return being the last acclaimed album by their core fans).
That’s interesting. I was talking about the Christian period as a way of offering a possible explanation for the retrospective lack of interest by the RRHOF in the group.
Anyone who listens to Kansas music and comes away thinking anything but awe with regards to their musical structures, their intelligent and creative lyrics, their ability to rock the house down, and most of all their incredible musicianship cannot be entrusted to boil water correctly. There is one reason and one reason only that Rolling Stone and all other music critics over the years have disregarded and dismissed this band, and that is their blatant hatred and animous towards anything having to do with Christianity. It’s just not considered cool enough for the R&R community. Kansas has always had a lot of undertones of Christianity within many (but by all means not all) of their songs, and that alone will always prevent them for consideration to this club. And that is a shame. When I think of some of the ridiculous “musical” acts that these idiots have inducted, to me it becomes less and less important that Kansas makes it in .. I would almost prefer them to NOT become a part of that absurd club at this point.
I think Kansas has a large group of devoted fans and their music remains popular and has endured in large part because of its intelligence and its depth. Whether or not Kansas is ever considered “cool” enough for the RRHOF is irrelevant, I agree, but that they deserve to be honored is without question.
>>There is one reason and one reason only that Rolling Stone and all other music critics over the years have disregarded and dismissed this band, and that is their blatant hatred and animous towards anything having to do with Christianity.
This is blatantly untrue. The fact is that Kansas was viewed by critics from the very start of being little more than a boogie band.
In 1976, critic Robert Christgau gave Leftoverture a D+ grade which he describes as “A D+ is an appalling piece of pimpwork or a thoroughly botched token of sincerity.”
David Wild, writing for Rolling Stone wrote that the lyrics are “a wan and ridiculous rehash of the bargain-basement exoticism employed by the British art-rock crowd.”
These were before Kerry Livgren converted to Christianity.
I, personally, like Kansas. They had their own sound and personality. I liked their later albums “Vinyl Confessions” and “Drastic Measures” in spite of their Christian leanings. I don’t know that they were particularly influential. But I think that on the weight of “Carry on Wayward Son” and “Dust in Wind”, you could have a good argument on their inclusion in the RRHOF.
I should have mentioned that David Wild’s review was for the album “Point of Know Return”. Sorry.
Thanks for the update.
Thanks for your comments about Kansas’ lack of critical credibility before their turn to Christianity (which alienated many people that I spoke to who had previously been fans of theirs). Still, “Dust In The Wind” and “Carry On Wayward Son” are undeniable hits with staying power that any band would be fortunate to have in their back catalog.
As a musician myself, I was at once inspired and intimidated by the virtuoso performance I of these men when I first saw them in 1976. They were awesome and unbelievable performers who could recreate incredibly difficult arrangements from their albums live onstage and I could tell no difference in the songs! I have seen them repeatedly over the year’s including last year and have tickets for this June also. Last year they were still incredible even with lineup changes. Nothing will ever replace the original lineup in my heart but they are still awesome. They BELONG in the HOF and deserve it more thank over half that are in there. VOTE KANSAS IN!!!!
I’m glad you were inspired by Kansas 🙂 I must say that I am only familiar with them from their hits, but their music is definitely awesome.
Steve Walsh (while in his prime- the 1970’s & 80’s) is one of the best rock vocalist EVER…His high-range never breaks, (even when it seems like his vocal chords would pop), it just got stronger…and this was in a time when most “hall of fame” bands were recording, rehearsing and touring rigorously (non-stop)! There was no youtube, facebook, etc. touring non-stop, playing packed arenas for a decade straight, and rocking out every night…His voice eventually gave out, but he kept on touring because fans still adored him…for this reason alone KANSAS should be in the rock and roll hall of fame…Steve Walsh- lead singer, keyboards…Enough said!
I happen to agree; thanks for sharing your comment. I think a great many lead singers had their voice give out after years and years of continual touring and recording.
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Kansas should be in the rock n roll hall of fame. I finally had the great pleasure of seeing them Saturday at the Fox Theater in downtown Detroit. There music is very influential. My favorite of their songs is “Miracles out of Nowhere” because it symbolizes that dreams can come true. The music eventhough it very deep track oriented makes it so special and unique.
That’s great; I haven’t seen them live myself, but I’m glad you have enjoyed that.
Kansas has more in common with classical music than r& r. Actually, they are a bridge between the two genres.
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I think there are a few acts that are a bridge between classical music and rock and roll, but thanks for your observation.
Kansas the original band members are so incredibly talented. Look how long their songs and members have been memoralized in the music realm.
SHAME ON THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME.
Give us a valid reason for your snub!
I’m curious to see what sort of valid reason there could be for such an obvious snub.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was once pure to what it meant to be a real rock star and innovator in its first few classes.As time went on it has become way to political and lost its luster to what real rock an roll is all about.Great idea at the start,but to me it really has no value to REAL ROCK fans and we know who we are.
Yes, people who are fans of “real rock” definitely know who they are. I’m not sure at what point exactly the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame signaled that they were not interested in rock music so much as music from the rock era, but that signal has definitely been sent.
Thanks for a great article. I just interviewed Rich Williams, and was reminded that the Martin D-28 he played on “Dust In The Wind” is in the R&R Hall, but he and the band aren’t. That’s pretty weird right there. But we have known for decades that Jann Wenner has about as much respect for rock as Trump has respect for women.
That’s a bit harsh; it is very interesting that the D-28 for “Dust In The Wind,” a truly fantastic performance, is in the RRHOF though. It shouldn’t take much for the band to be there with it.
What is the point of RRHF existence if groups like Kansas are not there? Many generations grew up with Kansas. Many of our believes and values were formed by their music. We went on to become doctors, engineers, lawyers, we had families, kids of our own, but what remained the same throughout the years was our love for Kansas. I moved to other type of music (jazz and classical) and nowadays I rarely listen to rock and roll. But, at least once a fortnight I have to play some Kansas – it’s like an addiction, otherwise I’d have withdrawals. I am not religious at all, I am not Christian, not that anything is wrong with that, and I don’t buy this Christian rock reason. Kansas’ music is not just some meaningless Rock and roll of the likes “she loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah”; it’s way of thinking, way of life. I quickly skimmed thru the inductees of the so called “Hall of Fame”, perhaps the more appropriate “Hall of Shame”. Many of those there I would not listen for all the gold in the world – life is too short for their musical diarrhoea. Sometimes I think that maybe it is a good thing that Kansas is not in this company. And to quote from Pinnacle “in this joy of madness, my smile might seem a frown”. With all that said, however, one fact is absolutely certain – the individuals of RRHF(S) who decide who to be “inducted” are complete morons, bloody idiots. They are not “judges”, they are imbeciles. They don’t have rocks in their heads as rocks may have some intelligence. They have absolutely nothing in there – empty space; not a single atom, not even a quark. Just emptiness.
Thanks for your comments; Kansas is definitely a well-beloved band and their absence is certainly puzzling given their excellence.
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The reason Kansas isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is pretty simple – Phil Ehart is an arrogant dick hated by all who know him.
Does that matter though? Lots of artists are difficult people to deal with, but their music is recognized and appreciated anyway.
Hall of Fame is meaningless, it’s the music that matters. Thank Jehovah for KANSAS BAND. AMEN.
Thank you for sharing; of course Kansas fans appreciate the music, but most people like honor and respect as well.
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Thanks for the pingback.
If Grand Funk, Kansas, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night and The Guess Who are not in the Rock and Roll, then nobody should be.
Welp, none of them are, sadly.