Kansas Honors Kansas

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Rep. M. Holmes of the Kansas House offered the following speech last week to honor Kerry Livgren of the band Kansas:

I'd like to introduce a remarkable individual to the House this morning. You may not recognize his name, but you will recognize some of the songs he's written.

Kerry Livgren graduated from Topeka West High School in 1967. He started playing in rock and roll bands and song writing while still in school. His songs are not the typical "feel good'' rock and roll, but are laced with thought provoking lyrics. Kerry was on a spiritual journey and all his lyrics reflected that. Words such as "If I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don't know'' and "All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see'' were typical of his hit songs.

Kerry's spiritual journey culminated in 1979 with his conversion to Christianity. His songs continued to be thought provoking, but took on a new dimension.

Not only were the lyrics of Kerry's songs unique, but the musical style was also unique. It was obvious that Kerry was as inspired by classical music as he was by rock and roll. I've often thought that if Bach or Beethoven were writing music in modern times, they would be in the same genre of music as Kerry Livgren.

Kerry's song writing career spans five decades, and he's played in numerous bands. The band he's best known for is a band named "Kansas." During the 70's and 80's, "Kansas" sold over 14 million records as the result of Livgren's song writing.

The band has produced eight gold albums, two triple platinum albums and one platinum live album. ``Kansas'' appeared on the Billboard charts for over 200 weeks throughout the 70's and 80's and played to sold out arenas and stadiums throughout North America, Europe and Japan. In fact, "Carry on Wayward Son'' was the second most played track on classic rock radio in 1995 and went to number one in 1997.

Those of us who listened to popular music in the 70's are acquainted with "Carry on Wayward Son,'' "Point of Know Return,'' "Song For America,'' "Hold On'' and more. Kerry's best known song is probably familiar to all of us here. It was played on rock stations, country stations and easy listening stations. You may have even heard it in the dentists' chair. The song? "Dust in the Wind.''

I asked Kerry if he knew this song would be a hit after writing it. He told me that he didn't think the song was worth recording. Fortunately, there were others who insisted that the song be released to the public.

"Kansas'' has traveled the world, and Kerry has rubbed elbows with many rich and famous. The band shared the stage with other bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jefferson Starship, Styx, Boston, Queen and The Rolling Stones. Even among the glamour, Kerry was a humble, modest person. His desire was to raise his family where he got his start, so the Livgren family returned to the state in 1993 where his children attend public school.

Kerry is currently recording and playing in a band named Proto Kaw. This band consists of the original members of "Kansas'' who graduated with Kerry from Topeka West High School. This new old band is enjoying a fair amount of success in Europe and on the east coast. They perform songs written from that era, as well as new material penned by Kerry.

Although Kerry has never stopped writing, recording and performing, he has many other interests besides music. Livgren has a small cow/calf operation, raises sheep, flies planes and teaches theology. To hear him say it, he has more interests than there are hours in a day.

The band "Kansas'' has made the state Kansas known throughout the modern world. It's time for the state to acknowledge and honor our home grown talent.

Update: here's a picture of Rep. Holmes giving his tribute with Kerry Livgren in the background. There's also a picture of him speaking at the podium later, but there's no text for his words, just the representative's.

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