Carry On Wayward Son
|"Carry On Wayward Son"|
|Single by Kansas|
|from the album Leftoverture|
|B-side||"Questions of My Childhood"|
|Released||November 23, 1976 (US) |
|Studio||Studio in the Country|
|Producer(s)||Jeff Glixman, Kansas|
|Kansas singles chronology|
"Carry On Wayward Son" is a song recorded by American rock band Kansas for their 1976 album Leftoverture: written by band member Kerry Livgren, the song became the band's first Top 40 single, reaching No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1977.
While Kansas' previous four albums had split songwriting duties between lead vocalist Steve Walsh and band member Kerry Livgren the latter essentially provided all the material for the band's fifth album release, Leftoverture: (Kerry Livgren quote:)"On the very first day of rehearsals, Steve...said that he had nothing – not a single song. I don’t relish that kind of pressure, but with hindsight it really brought out the best in me.” Although based in Atlanta, Kansas had returned to their Topeka, Kansas, hometown to work up material for what would be the Leftoverture album, the band rehearsing in a vacant store in a strip mall the material Livgren was working up on a Lowrey organ at the parental home where he was staying. "Carry On Wayward Son" was written after the band had completed rehearsals. Livgren, who perceived the song as being "beamed down" to him en toto, in 2004 stated: "It's an autobiographical song. Parallel to my musical career I've always been on a spiritual sojourn, looking for truth and meaning. It was a song of self-encouragement. I was telling myself to keep on looking and I would find what I sought."([Livgren was born again July 25, 1979, and as of 1980 recorded primarily as a Christian rock artist.)
|Kansas guitarist Rich Williams on the song's impact and enduring appeal|
|"When it came out, there was nothing like it. [It has] so many musically interesting parts. It wasn't rubber-stamped; it was unique to itself. It's a great sing-along. It had a lot of things going for it. When we recorded it, we knew we had a great song"..."but we didn't realize what it would turn into. It's become part of rock-&-roll culture. But then it seemed like a fluke. It was the right song at the right time":|
Kansas drummer Phil Ehart recalled that Livgren mentioned a new song as Kansas was packing up to leave Topeka for Studio in the Country, the Louisiana facility where Leftoverture was recorded from December 1975, with Livgren presenting "Carry On Wayward Son" to his bandmates only after they had reached the studio.(Phil Ehart 2004 quote:)"It was the last, last [song] to be submitted for...'Leftoverture'...I can't even remember if we dropped something else to get [it] on there...[When] we recorded it, we didn't really think it would be a hit [as] it was about six minutes long...We were on the road [in December 1976 when] our manager...said: 'Well, you're not gonna believe this, but we actually have a hit song.' We said, 'What?' He said, 'Yeah. "Carry On Wayward Son" is shooting up the charts.' And it barely made it on the album!"
Kansas guitarist Rich Williams indicated in 2004 that the success of "Carry On Wayward Son" wasn't a total surprise to the band: "As far as knowing what a hit was, we didn't have any idea. But we knew there was something special about ['Carry On Wayward Son']. It was very easy to listen to but still very different."
Release and impact
Subsequent to the October 21, 1976, release of the Leftoverture album, the track "Carry On Wayward Son" became an FM radio favorite, causing the November 23 single release of a 3:26 edit of the 5:26 album track (itself trimmed from 7:30 minutes): reportedly a good many Top 40 stations aired the full album cut rather than the single edit.
Debuting at No. 86 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated December 25, 1976, "Carry On Wayward Son" reached the Top 40 - at No. 36 - seven weeks later, the single in its first months of release typically garnering attention in what could be termed secondary markets being "added" by major market radio stations such as WABC-AM (NYC) and KHJ-AM (LA) only in March 1977. Ultimately "Carry On Wayward Son" reached a chart peak of No. 11 on the Hot 100 dated April 2, 1977: Internationally the single reached No. 6 in Canada, No. 51 in the UK  and No. 58 in Australia  All initial releases of the single had a B-side of "Questions of My Childhood".
"Carry on Wayward Son" was later included on all Kansas compilation albums (except for Works in Progress) and was heard on all Kansas live albums. Certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of one million units on December 18, 1990, "Carry On Wayward Son" is now certified quadruple platinum. "Carry On Wayward Son" is 96th on VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs.
- Steve Walsh – lead vocals, keyboards, organ
- Robby Steinhardt – backing vocals
- Kerry Livgren – electric guitar, piano
- Rich Williams – acoustic and electric guitar
- Dave Hope – bass guitar
- Phil Ehart – drums
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||58|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||5|
|UK Singles (OCC)||51|
|US Billboard Hot 100||11|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||400,000|
|United States (RIAA)||4× Platinum||4,000,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
In other media
"Carry On Wayward Son" is considered the unofficial theme song of the TV series Supernatural. It is played during the recap before every season finale of Supernatural, with the exception of the first season, where it was played during the recap of the penultimate episode. At the end of the show's 200th episode in season 10, the cast of a play based on Supernatural sing the song. The song was also featured prominently in the series finale, titled "Carry On", referencing the song. Featured in the episode was the original song and a cover version by Neoni.
The title of the novels in Rainbow Rowell's Simon Snow trilogy is also loosely based on this song. Even though the first novel, Carry On, is based on the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, the second book, Wayward Son, is based on this song.
The introspective lyrics of "Carry On Wayward Son" have facilitated the song's being recorded by a number of Contemporary Christian music acts, including all-female band Rachel Rachel for their 1991 debut album Way to My Heart which was produced by latterday Kansas frontman John Elefante the song's writer Kerry Livgren appeared in the track's video playing guitar (Dann Huff being the actual musician on the track). "Carry On Wayward Son" has also be remade by Canadian Christian rock band Critical Mass (album Grasping For Hope in the Darkness/ 2004), the Christian-influenced rock band Showdown (album Temptation Come My Way/ 2007), and Christian metal band Stryper (album The Covering/ 2011).
The March 24, 2017 box set edition of the album For All Kings by thrash metal band Anthrax featured a remake of "Carry On Wayward Son" as a bonus track: the keyboards on the track were provided by Fred Mandel. Other metal acts who have recorded "Carry On Wayward Son" include Dream Theater (EP A Change of Seasons/ 1995), Yngwie Malmsteen (album Inspiration/ 1997) (vocalist Jeff Scott Soto), Within the Ruins (EP Omen/ 2011),Gwar (album Battle Maximus 2013 German release). and Leo Moracchioli (album Leo Metal Covers vol 28/ 2020) (with Truls Haugen). "Carry On Wayward Son" has also been recorded by the Wynners (album Makings/ 1977), Synkopy 61 (as "Kolemjdoucí") (single/ 1980), the Oak Ridge Boys (multi-artist album When Pigs Fly - Songs You Thought You'd Never Hear/ 2002), and Sylvain Cossette (album 70s/ 2007).
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