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Kerry Livgren

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Biography

Kerry Livgren was one of the founding members and primary writers for the '70s supergroup Kansas. Having grown up listening to the works of classical composers (notably the Romantics such as Liszt and Wagner), Livgren's songwriting technique has always tended toward orchestration — with an ear for the majestic or the symphonic. Playing with numerous bands throughout the late '60s and early '70s — including early incarnations of Kansas that included Dave Hope and Phil Ehart — Livgren joined White Clover in 1974, a band featuring vocalist Steve Walsh and violinist Robbie Steinhardt. Shortly after Livgren joined, the group changed their name to Kansas. As a member of Kansas, Livgren shared songwriting duties with Walsh and as the group progressed, it became evident that Livgren contributed much of what made their music so unique — specifically, its complexity and lyrics that spoke of a restless search for truth. In 1976, while Walsh was suffering from a bout with writer's block, Livgren penned nearly all the songs on their Leftoverture album, including their smash hit "Carry on Wayward Son."

The following year saw an even greater commercial success on the strength of their Point of Know Return album, which featured the existential Livgren-penned "Dust in the Wind." After many years of flirting with various religious teachings, Livgren became immersed in Urantia, a then-trendy spiritualist, pantheistic faith. Many of the songs of Kansas' Monolith album resonate with Urantian teachings. While on tour supporting Monolith, Livgren converted to Christianity (as later did fellow bandmate Dave Hope). Many of the songs on the albums to follow, particularly 1982's Vinyl Confessions and Livgren's first solo album Seeds of Change have a distinct (if not overbearing) Christian message. During the recording of Vinyl Confessions, many other notable Christian artists began to gravitate toward Kansas, specifically John Elefante, Warren Ham (formerly with Bloodrock), and Michael Gleason. Dissatisfied with Kansas' Drastic Measures album and the musical direction the group was taking, and also afire with his newfound faith, Livgren, Hope, Ham, Gleason, and drummer Dennis Holt formed a new band, AD, taking on many of Livgren's complex musical stylings, giving them an '80s spin, and injecting the freedom to sing about religious subjects.

Three albums were released with AD: Time Line, Art of the State, and Reconstructions (released after Warren Ham's departure). Bound by contractual obligation, Livgren was unable to release music by any vehicle other than Kansas. As a result, the latter two AD albums were released only in the Christian market and that, combined with tours consisting primarily of small clubs and churches, allowed the public virtually no exposure to AD's music. The band ran themselves into the ground fairly quickly, acquiring some significant debts. In an attempt to pay these off, Livgren and Ham quickly recorded Prime Mover, a collection of previously unrecorded AD tracks. Livgren has since become a full-time farmer, releasing the odd album here and there. He has continued to write music and has appeared with the re-formed Kansas from time to time. The 2000 Kansas album Somewhere to Elsewhere was recorded at Livgren's studio in Kansas, featuring all the original members (and bassist Billy Greer). Each track on Somewhere to Elsewhere was written by Livgren himself. ~ Mark W.B. Allender, Rovi

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Born:

18 September 1949 in Topeka, KS

Genre
Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s

Followers

Contemporaries