America Founding Guitarist Dan Peek Dies

By , Contributor

Dan Peek, one of the founding members of the band America, has passed away. He was 60 years old.

In a post on the group's official website, current band members Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell revealed that their former bandmate died on Sunday, July 24. “We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dan Peek yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Peek family.”

While the cause of death was not stated, Beckley and Bunnell both gave their own personal remembrances of the time they spent together in America, a band the three “army brats” formed in Europe on the cusp of the ‘60s whose music would score them a number one chart hit and a Grammy and would eventually would become a pillar of what would become known as Americana.

Their biggest hit was “Horse With No Name,” a song incorrectly attributed to Neil Young because of the close resemblance to Young’s trademark sound, and one that would ironically knock Young’s "Heart of Gold" out of top spot on the US charts in 1972.

But it was “Lonely People” that is more associated with Peek, who co-wrote the song (with his wife) with the intention of inspiring hope in people who thought they would never find "the one."

"I wrote it probably within a month of getting married to my long lost love Catherine," Peek said. "I always felt like a melancholy, lonely person. And now I felt like I’d won." He continued to win. He was still married to Catherine more than 40 years later, at the time of his death.

Peek left the band in 1977, to renew his Christian faith, and to begin a career as a contemporary Christian artist, releasing his first solo album All Things Are Possible on Pat Boone’s Lamb & Lion Records in 1978, which began a string of hits, all with spiritual themes. He also wrote a memoir of his time in the band and his own spiritual struggles titled An American Band.

Peek’s own web site simply stated: “Dan went to Heaven on July 24, 2011” with a video of the artist performing “Lonely People.”

Ironically, America’s Back Pages was released today when the news of Peek's passing broke. While Peek wasn’t on the disc, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell recorded a dozen covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Mark Knopfler, The New Radicals, and more.

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Jaan Uhelszki was one of the founding editors at Detroit’s legendary Creem magazine. Since that time, her work has appeared in USA Today, Uncut, Rolling Stone, Spin, NME, Relix, and Guitar World. She is the only journalist to have ever performed in full makeup with Kiss. Luckily she only had to put…

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