March 1974, in the first season of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, the producer talked to the television audience about a new act he signed to his Kirshner label, named Kansas. The group began with the opening song from their self-titled debut album called “Can I Tell You.” In addition to the keyboard, guitar, and drums format which progressive rock acts generally showcased on the series, this sextet also had a violinist as a key driving force on the song, Robby Steinhardt, who passed away July 17 at age 71, in Florida. Kansas’ first album reached the Top 200. With an audience building, the next two albums reached the Top 100.
February 1977, almost three years since their television debut, “Carry on Wayward Son,” from the group’s fourth album, Leftoverture, became their Top 40 singles debut. The gold single reached No. 11 and went gold, with Steinhardt providing harmony vocals. The album reached the No. 5 position.
A year later, their gentle song “Dust in the Wind” entered the Top 40 and featured a beautiful violin solo from Steinhardt. This gold single and its flip side, “Paradox,” were both included on the group’s fifth album, Point of No Return. “Paradox” featured a 51 second introduction, with Steinhardt’s violin tightly woven with the group’s keyboard sound, and the instrumental break was even longer. “Paradox” was also included in the group’s double-live album Two for the Show, which was released that fall.
Flip side: Paradox
A side: Dust in the Wind
Top 100 debut: January 28, 1978
Peak position: No. 6
Kirshner ZSB 4274
Three more Top 40 singles on the Kirshner label followed, 1979’s “People of the South Wind,” 1980’s “Hold On,” and 1982’s “Play the Game Tonight.” Steinhardt then left the group and rejoined them from 1997 through early 2006.
In 2020, Steinhardt’s violin was heard on Jon Anderson’s nine minute song “Activate” from his 1000 Hands: Chapter One album, produced by Michael Franklin. Steinhardt began working with Franklin on a comeback album, planned for release this year, supported by a tour, when he became ill.
Steinhardt’s Kansas band members shared, “The members of Kansas, past and present, wish to express our deepest sorrow over the death of our bandmate and friend, Robby Steinhardt. Robby will always be in our souls, in our minds, and in our music. What he brought to us as bandmates, to the fans who attended our concerts, and to the sound of Kansas, will always be heartfelt. We love him and will miss him always.” Steinhardt is survived by his daughter Becky and his wife Cindy, who said, “We are beyond devastated, as our lives were about to start a new adventure. Robby was looking forward to being back on stage, doing what he loved. We have lost one of the most incredible people of our time.”