America continues to be a singer-songwriter treasure

Published on March 24th, 2021

By Jim Dail

In the early 1970s, the singer-songwriter label was a common thread for many songs reaching the Billboard Top Ten charts. Among those classic songs were “Sister Golden Hair,” “A Horse with No Name,” “Lonely People” and “Tin Man.”

All of these songs are the creation of the band America, which will perform Sunday at Thornton Winery as part of the 2015 Champagne Jazz Concert Series.

Success in America came pretty quick in 1972 with the band winning the Best New Artist Grammy.

“We were young and confident in those early days after the success of the first album and singles, but it was a hard act to follow all the same,” said founding member Dewey Bunnell.  “It created its own expectations, and we did feel a certain pressure to write and record a new album each after that for Warner Brothers, in addition to major concert tours.”

That pressure is definitely not there for the band’s latest release, “Lost and Found,” a collection of unreleased songs that is now running high up the charts, considering the strength of the band’s legacy and touring over the decades.

“The songs were collected from years of unreleased archive material,” said founding member Gerry Beckley. “I had a studio in my house, and most days I would be recording. There was a lot of unreleased music. Our friend, Jeff Larson, was going through it all and felt there was a good album there.”

Bunnell and Beckley met, along with Dan Peek, in London; all were so-called “military brats.” After forming the band and performing live overseas, they returned to America.

In early 1972, the band hit the big time with “A Horse with No Name,” a Bunnell composition, followed by Beckley’s “I Need You.” Hits like “Ventura Highway,” “Tin Man,” “Lonely People,” “Sister Golden Hair” and “You Can Do Magic” followed.

It was the combination of writing styles that really cemented the band’s songwriting, whether writing about love or life.

“Both Dewey and I write in different ways,” said Beckley. “Sometimes it’ll be just a quick lyrical idea or maybe some chords we like the sound of.”

Of course, they were influenced by a couple of the greatest, if not greatest songwriters in popular music. 

“Our main influences have always been The Beatles and The Beach Boys,” said Beckley. “That was true in the late ‘60s when we first started writing and it remains true today.”

It certainly worked for them as the band put together seven Top Ten hits, including two Number One hits, as well as four Top Ten albums, one of which went to the top.

“Songwriting is the most creative element of what we do and will always be something we are drawn to do in one way or another,” said Bunnell. “After all, we are singer-songwriters.”

They have also been a favorite touring band for decades, something that continues to this day.

“The live show has grown over the years and is stronger than ever,” said Bunnell. “We have incorporated video enhancement on several songs. Rich Campbell has been on bass guitar for over one thousand shows now, and we have two new players to the band on drums and lead guitar/keyboards with Ryland Steen and Bill Worrell respectively.”

And the set list is right out of a singer-songwriter catalog, including classics, covers and some of the new songs.

“We have added two songs from ‘Lost & Found’ for this summer touring, ‘Driving’ and ‘Dream Come True,’ Bunnell said. “We’ve been getting a great response to both songs, as well as the album overall. Both songs are up-tempo, which is always good for our set to contrast more mid-tempo songs and some ballads.”

Perhaps the strength of the band is just that they feel something special in their music.

“I’ve found the best results come from your heart,” said Beckley.


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