Robby Steinhardt, Kansas Founding Member, Dies

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Robby Steinhardt (Photo via Cindy Steinhardt)

Robby Steinhardt, a founding member, co-lead singer and violinist of the rock band Kansas, died July 17, 2021. His death, at age 71, was revealed by his wife, Cindy, on July 19. The musician had been admitted to Tampa General hospital on May 13, suffering from acute pancreatitis. He never fully recovered. On the day he was to be moved to a rehabilitation center, a fever set in. Steinhardt was able to greet his wife and daughter, but he passed minutes later.

Formed in 1973 and hailing from Topeka, Kansas, the band—comprising singer/keyboardist Steve Walsh, guitarists Kerry Livgren and Rich Williams, violinist Steinhardt, bassist Dave Hope and drummer Phil Ehart—caught a break when they inked a recording contract with Don Kirshner’s record label, Kirshner, just as his TV show, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, launched and became quite popular with rock fans.

After great success, Steinhardt departed the band in 1982 but returned in 1997 remaining for nearly a decade.

In her Facebook post announcing her husband’s death, Cindy Steinhardt wrote that he had just recorded his first solo album with producer Michael Franklin, and had planned to begin a tour in August. “Robby was so looking forward to being back on stage doing what he loved,” she wrote. Franklin had assembled an all-star cast of musicians to support Steinhardt’s comeback.

Steinhardt was born May 25, 1950, in Lawrence, Kansas, the adopted son of the director of music history at the Univ. of Kansas. Robby was classically trained in violin as a boy. He and Walsh, Kansas’ other lead vocalist from their core, early lineup, were the only two members of the band not born in Topeka.

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2021

After three albums from 1974-1975, the group made a significant splash with 1976’s Leftoverture, which included “Carry On Wayward Son,” a #11 pop hit in the U.S., with Walsh singing lead.

Watch Kansas perform “Carry on Wayward Son” with Steinhardt in 2015

Related: Our Album Rewind of Leftoverture

The 1977 follow-up album, Point of Know Return, featured two more big radio hits, the title track (which Steinhardt co-wrote) and “Dust in the Wind,” which at #6 became their highest-charting single.

On their Facebook page, Kansas paid tribute. “The members of the band, 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.”

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