Little is known at this point about the death on Sunday (July 24) of Dan Peek, co-founder of the band America, who left the group in 1977 and then continued on as a somewhat reclusive Christian pop artist.
The home page of Peek’s official web site includes a simple note saying that “Dan went to Heaven on July 24,” along with a video of Peek performing the 1974 America hit “Lonely People.” No other information was offered.
He was 60 years old and, by all accounts, living with his wife Catherine in the Cayman Islands and was “semi-retired,” according to America bandmate Dewey Bunnell.
Bunnell and Gerry Beckley have both paid tribute to him with notes on the duo’s own web site. Bunnell writes that, “I am so sorry to learn of Dan’s passings. Dan, along with Gerry (Beckley) & myself, formed the band America as teenagers after being great friends in high school during the late 60’s. It was a joyous time for the three of us, full of excitement and laughter. We created lasting music together and experienced a life that we could never have imagined. Dan was an equal and integral part of that early history, and I have never forgotten the good times we spent making that music and learning about life together.”
He goes on to say that, “Although we eventually went our separate ways, his contributions to the music of America have always been present and will last forever. This news brings great sadness. My sincere condolences go out to his wife, Catherine, and the entire Peek family. May Dan rest in peace, and his memory be cherished forever.”
Video: Dan Peek’s Biggest Hit With America, “Lonely People”
Beckley’s note reads, “I am deeply saddened to hear the news of Dan’s passing. He was a dear friend for many years. Dan & his music will live on in the great songs he shared with us all. My sincere condolences go out to Catherine and the entire Peek family. May he rest in peace …”
Shortly before Peek’s death, Bunnell told Billboard.com that Peek’s departure from the band was “an organic split” and that he and Beckley felt no acrimony towards their former band mate. “Dan wrote some songs, Dan played lead guitar and Dan sang the high harmonies — so at the end of the day his contributions have never been questions,” Bunnell explains. “We still do ‘Lonely People’ and ‘Don’t Cross the River’ every night on stage. We’ll always acknowledge Dan’s contribution, and those years that we were together as America were really special times.”
He added that there was some thought about asking Peek to join him and Beckley when America receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year to mark the group’s career achievements as well as the 40th anniversary of the band winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
Peek was born in Panama City, Fla., to a U.S. Air Force officer father. He moved to England in 1963 when his father was assigned to a base there, meeting Bunnell and Beckley at London Central High School. Peek and Beckley played in a band called The Days, and after Peek left to attend Old Dominion University in Virginia, Bunnell took his place. Returning to England after just a year away, the three musicians regrouped and formed America, hitting big with their first single, “A Horse With No Name.”
America scored three platinum and three gold albums as well as eight Top 40 hits between 1971-75. But Peek, who became a born-gain Christian after becoming disenchanted with travel and recreational drug use and sex, decided to leave the band. “I…was trying to walk the walk and was just unable to do it” in the band, Peek said in an interview after the publication of his memoir, “An American Band: The America Story.”
Peek launched his solo career wtih “All Things Are Possible” in 1979; the title track hit No. 1 on the Contemporary Christian Music chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award, while Beckley and Bunnell sang harmonies on the track “Love Was Just Another Word,” marking the last time the three recorded together — although they did occasionally reunite on stage. Peek recorded and performed sporadically after that, putting a revised version of “Lonely People,” which was a No. 2 CCM hit, on his 1986 album “Electro Voice.” His other CCM hits included “Divine Lady,” “Doer of the World,” “Cross Over” and the title track from “Electro Voice.”