Song of the Week – Song for America, Kansas


Back in college my roommates and I had a routine. After we finished our studies each night we would unwind by listening to a few of our favorite records. We would turn on a black light or light a few candles. We would sit in the darkness and listen intently (and at a very high volume) to a handful of songs that always did the trick for us. In those days, most of what fit the bill was songs by jam bands or prog rock. A few that I can remember were:

Jethro Tull – “Thick as a Brick”
Jefferson Airplane – “Feels So Good” (live from Thirty Seconds over Winterland)
Yes – “And You And I”

The last one I recall is today’s SotW, “Song for America” by Kansas (1975).

“Song for America” was exactly the kind of cut we were looking for – long (almost 10 minutes), progressive rock with several movements, odd time signatures and some top notch, virtuoso playing. This is a well-conceived and executed composition written by Kerry Livgren.

It opens with a long three part intro. The first part has a heavy riff that slows for a synthy transitional part about 2 minutes in. The third section introduces the melody for the first couple of verses sung powerfully by Steve Walsh. The second two verses have a totally different melody. Just after the 5 minute mark the vocals are over and the song moves into the full on prog rock section that includes a nifty violin solo by Rob Steinhardt. When that middle section concludes there’s a return to the main theme for one final vocal verse and then the very Yes-like fade out. Phil Ehart’s drum work is outstanding throughout.

The song’s lyrics play on an ecological theme. Initially it expounds on the virtues of our land’s pristine, natural beauty. By the end it is distraught by the overpopulation and overbuilding that destroyed our paradise.

If all you know about Kansas is “Carry on My Wayward Son” and/or “Dust in the Wind,” you may turn your nose up to today’s SotW selection. That would be a mistake.

Enjoy… until next week.

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