Thursday, July 28, 2011

America Co-Founder Dan Peek Passes On

Dan Peek, who co-founded the rock group America with Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, passed on 24 July 2011 at the age of 60. The cause has yet to be determined.

Dan Peek was born 1 November 1950 in Panama City, Florida. Mr. Peek's father was a United States Air Force officer, so that he spent his childhood in such places as Japan and Pakistan. It was when Mr. Peek was a teenager that his father was stationed in England. There he met fellow Americans Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell at London Central High School. Their fathers were also in the military. The three sang together until Mr. Peek returned to the United States to attend Old Dominion University in Virginia. He returned to England a year later and the three began performing together again. To insure that everyone realised they were an American band, they simply called themselves "America."

In March 1971 America was signed to the UK Warner Brothers label. Their first album, released in 1971, did only moderately well.  The single "Horse With No Name" would prove to be very successful, however, so that the album was re-released with the the single added to it, and went platinum. The trio would release six over the next several years:  Homecoming, Hat Trick, Holiday, Hearts, Hideaway, and Harbour. Their albums sold very well, with all but Hat Trick  and Harbour hitting the top twenty. In addition to "Horse with No Name" their hit songs would include "I Need You," "Ventura Highway," ""Tin Man," and "Sister Golden Hair." While Dan Peek wrote some of America's singles, including "Don't Cross The River,", "Lonely People (which went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100)," "Woman Tonight,", and "Today's the Day," and "Today's the Day."

In 1977, not long after the release of Harbour, Dan Peek left America, having become a "born again" Christian. He would go onto become a pioneer in the genre of Christian Contemporary music. He released his fist solo album, All Things Are Possible, in 1979. Over the next many years he would release fifteen albums.

As to America, despite rumours to the contrary, there was never a true reunion of the original band, although the split was amicable. Messrs. Beckley and Bunnell provided backing vocals on the song  "Love Was Just Another Word" on Mr. Peek's first album, While Mr. Beckley provided backing vocals on the title track on the album Doer of the Word. That having been said, the original America never did reunite.

I must admit that I was always a fan of America, and I always enjoyed Dan Peek's contributions to the band. He was a very good musician and also a fairly good songwriter. In my opinion, "Lonely People" was one of America's best songs. I must confess I know very little of his Christian Contemporary career. In fact, I rather doubt I have heard of any of his Christian Contemporary songs. That having been said, he was very successful as a solo artist in the genre, and I suspect his songs were quite good given his work with America. It is sad that he passed at a rather young age, having contributed to one of the best known soft rock bands of the Seventies and having been a pioneer in Christian Contemporary music.

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