His official site says simply, “Dan went to heaven on July 24 2011.”
That’s Dan Peek in the cowboy hat, with Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, on the cover of their greatest hits album History. Everyone seemed to own that album in 1975, along with The Eagles Greatest Hits, The Carpenters Greatest Hits, Bread’s Greatest Hits, etc, etc.
(It never occurred to me at the time to wonder why Big Ben was on the album cover. It’s because the three met in England, where their fathers were all stationed with the U.S. Air Force. I also didn’t know until a few years ago that the album was produced by Sir George Martin, who was so vital to the success of The Beatles.)
History was certainly in heavy rotation on our Zenith console hi-fi back in the day. Most of America’s hits (unlike those of Bread) remain memorable and even fresh: “Ventura Highway,” “Don’t Cross the River,” “A Horse With No Name.” I even liked “Muskrat Love,” though it was later horribly desecrated by the Captain and Tennille.
Dan Peek left the band in 1977, having tired of the pop star lifestyle: “I more or less became the Bad Boy of the band. I really was very, very rebellious and really dove head first into sex, drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll. It was just like a kid in a candy store with a sweet tooth, for me for seven years.” He became a born-again Christian and went on to become a major figure in Christian pop music.
(To learn more about Peek and the early days, you can’t do better than this terrific interview with Gary James, which includes a brief tale of Warren Beatty hitting on Peek’s wife.)
The parting was amicable, and Beckley and Bunnell have continued on as America for the three decades since. There was the usual talk of a reunion, but it never happened. Ironically, America’s latest album, a collection of covers called Back Pages, was released on Tuesday.
Here’s America in its heyday, with Peek playing the opening guitar hook of what is (for my money) their greatest hit:
Read a little more about Dan Peek.