From America to the Kotel

By
December 22, 2010 22:05

Dan Peek, co-founder of 1970s soft rock giants America, is singing a Zionistic tune these days.




70S SUPERGROUP America

70S SUPERGROUP America. (photo credit: Courtesy)

This horse certainly has a name, and it’s called Zionism. One of the founding members of the 1970s rock band America, which boasted over a dozen Top 10 hits including “A Horse With No Name,” is now tooting Israel’s horn whenever he can.

Dan Peek, who left the band in 1977, after seven platinum albums and other tuneful soft rock hits like “Tin Man,” “Sister Golden Hair,” and “Ventura Highway,” had a spiritual awakening and reinvented himself as a contemporary Christian artist in the 1980s.

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That in turn led him to the study, appreciation and ultimately love for Israel, which has manifested itself in two songs that Peek has recorded and posted on his website - “The Wailing Wall” and “Wings of Eagles,” “You can’t open a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing about Israel and quote ‘Mideast conflict’ front and center,” said the 60-year-old Peek during a family vacation in Missouri from his permanent home in the West Indies.

“I’m very pro Israel, I guess I would be considered a rabid pro-Zionist. I would be foaming at the mouth against giving up any more land – including the Old City.

The main reason I wanted to write the “The Wailing Wall” was for encouragement.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.’ So I wanted to encourage Israelis by letting them know they have friends.”

“The world has become somewhat blinded from the truth,” he added.

“At one point, a lot of the world was sympathetic to Israel, but slowly it’s changed. However there are a goodly number of American citizens who are very pro-Israel and back her to the hilt. It’s just that these avid supporters tend to sometimes get drowned out in the US.”

The other song, “Wings of Eagles,” which Peek said had been donated to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, focuses on immigration to Israel, one of the tenets of Christian evangelical philosophy which prophesizes an ingathering of Jews to Israel heralding a Messianic era.

“It’s also a song of hope and encouragement that Jews in danger around the world will be able to come to the Promised Land,” said Peek.

“I think it’s one of the best things I ever wrote. It came out of me like a thunderbolt.”

That’s a bold statement for someone who wrote chart-topping hits with America like “Lonely People” and “Don’t Cross the River.” For Peek, it was another life back when he attended a London high school for the children of American diplomats and servicepeople, which is where he met fellow students Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley.

“London Central High School was a converted RAF camp, and it was like a miniature piece of the United States slapped down in Watford. For a lot of the kids, it was their family’s first overseas assignment, and even with the mild cultural difference, they freaked out. But I had been living in Pakistan for three years, so I was thrilled to be in England,” said Peek.

“Musically, it was the place to be. The British Invasion had ended, and evolved into an American invasion. Everyone was listening to American artists like James Taylor, Crosby, Still and Nash, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell – it was a complete reversal.”

“When the three of us decide to form a band, we wanted to set ourselves apart and not be seen as English guys trying to do American music, but instead, accentuate that we were an American band, hence the name America.”

THEIR 1970 debut album America was a blockbuster that took them by surprise, launching the hit singles, the Neil Youngsoundalike “A Horse with No Name,” “Sandman” and “I Need You.”

“It was a dream come true, like winning the lottery,” said Peek.

“Within nine months, we went from having to sell some of our equipment to eat, to signing a deal with Warner Brothers and releasing that album. It went to number one everywhere, including Israel. I remember seeing a chart showing “A Horse With No Name” was number one in Israel.”

“It was a Cinderella story, but once it happened, it turned into a freight train,” he added, referring to the constant recording and touring merry-go-round that ensued, resulting in seven platinum albums over the next seven years and a greatest hits collection, History, which has sold over seven million copies.

“It was really a marathon consisting of sprints. We were always trying to keep up with the last hit and churn out something better. You learn early that fame is fleeting,” said Peek who decided in 1977 that he’d had enough. He recorded a series of solo albums with a Christian theme, and in 1992, moved to the Caribbean with this wife Catherine.

In recent years, Peek has turned his creative talents to writing, penning an book, An American Band - The America Story, which he also sells on his website (www.danpeek.com) and working on other writing and musical projects, most related to his Christian faith.

His old band mates Bunnell and Beckley continue to tour as America, and in 2006, they even recorded an album of new material spurred on by a younger generation of fans who had grown up on their music like Ryan Adams, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins.

“Dewey and Gerry are still out on the road about 150 dates a year – I don’t know how they do it,” said Peek, adding that he’s never been asked to rejoin, even as a one-shot reunion.

“I was in the US recently, and they were playing only a couple hours away. A friend called and said why don’t you go down there and surprise them? I responded that he didn’t get it. Dewey and Gerry worked for many years to establish themselves as a duo, it’s like putting salt into a wound when someone still asks them, ‘hey, where’s the third guy?’ “It’s a bit of their history that will never go away, but it’s galling to them on some level. We’ve had innumerable requests to reform, but the ball’s in their court. I would probably do it.”

Peek’s not waiting for the call, though, preferring the chilled mood of Caribbean semi-retired life.

“I played at the opening of a friend’s coffee shop, but that’s about it as far as performing,” he said. “I do get requests, but I’ve more or less put myself in hermit mode.”

For such an avid lover of Zion, Peek has not visited Israel – a situation that could change if his wife has any say.

“She’s been after us to visit every year, and I’ve heard such wonderful things about Israel. But I’m just about burnt out to the point I rarely travel anymore. But I would like to come and check it out.”

And if he does, chances are, one of the first stops will be the Western Wall.


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