Dan Peek, one-third of '70s hit-makers America, died July 24 of undisclosed causes in the Cayman Islands, on the eve of the release of his former group's new album Back Pages. An accomplished musician, Peek wrote the B-sides to many of their hit singles, as well as recording 16 albums of devotional music.
In 1972, after the smash success of America's self-titled album — which carried with it their #1 single “A Horse With No Name” — Peek left London for Los Angeles, only to leave the the band amicably in 1977 after seven years with it and embarking on a solo career.
While many of America's hits — “Ventura Highway,” “Sister Golden Hair,” “Tin Man,” “A Horse With No Name” — were written by Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, Peek got his shining moment with “Lonely People.” Clocking in at a scant two-and-a-half minutes, it's packed with inspiration, on par with The Beatles' “Here Comes the Sun” or The Smiths' “Shakespeare's Sister.”
He performed it on those rare occasions when he did sing publicly, having entered semi-retirement in the '90s and living in the Cayman Islands, the absolutely apogee of yacht rock. He never reunited with America, which still tours and performs to this day.
One of music's great gifts is the sense of place it imparts. When a song catches you in just the right place, it links inescapably, a link that becomes almost as unassailable as the scent of firewood burning on a memorable night. Dan Peek's great talent was understanding that power, and writing songs for everyone to enjoy, lonely no more.