Something has made America great again. It’s probably a combination of touring and a recent rash of interviews that’s returning them to popularity.
After their appearance on the CBS program Sunday Morning, I found America had the numbers 3 and 4 positions on the iTunes sales chart with their two greatest hits albums. That’s pretty impressive for a band that had most of their hits from 1972 to 1976, and their last big hit in 1982.
Americans Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley, and Dan Peek (l-r above) were in London because their fathers were stationed at an Air Force base there. After high school, the trio of singers, songwriters, and guitarists formed a band. They called themselves America, so people wouldn’t think they were a British band trying to sound American.
In 1971, they recorded their self-titled first album at Trident studios in London. America has ringing acoustic guitars and beautiful harmonies, but the album didn’t take off until they added one more song to it…”A Horse With No Name”. The song is by Dewey Bunnell, and it went all the way to #1 on the Billboard singles chart in March of 1972. It sounded amazingly similar to the song it replaced at the top…”Heart Of Gold”. Honestly, it sounds like Dewey is channeling Neil Young. America fit in perfectly with the music scene of CSN&Y and singer-songwriters, and the album went to #1 on the Billboard chart.
America then came back to the United States to record their appropriately titled second album, Homecoming, in Los Angeles.
It was still 1972. Homecoming featured the singles “Ventura Highway” (#8) by Dewey Bunnell, and “Don’t Cross The River” (#35) by Dan Peek. America won the “Best New Artist” Grammy at the 1973 awards ceremony.
Unfortunately, the third album Hat Trick produced no hits in 1973.
So, America went to London in 1974 to have The Beatles’ producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick help them with their fourth album, Holiday.
George Martin added the right touches, and America returned to the Top 10 singles chart with “Tin Man” (#4) by Dewey Bunnell, and “Lonely People” (#5) by Dan Peek & his wife Catherine. It was the only Top 10 single with Dan Peek as the songwriter and lead singer. Both singles hit the top of the Adult Contemporary chart. The album was also successful…#3 in Billboard.
Their hits continued in 1975 with two songs from Gerry Beckley…”Sister Golden Hair” (#1) and “Daisy Jane” (#20). The album, Hearts, went to #4 in Billboard. Also in 1975, America released their greatest hits album, History (they were naming all their albums so they started with an “H”).
The album was #3 and a multi-platinum success.
And then things started going downward. Their 1976 album Hideaway did okay (#11), but didn’t produce any big hits. The 1977 follow-up, Harbor, did worse (#21), and had no singles chart. Dan Peek decided to leave the group to forge a solo career in the Christian Music genre.
America’s last real commercial success came 5 years later with the release of “You Can Do Magic”, a song written and produced by ex-Argent guitarist Russ Ballard. “Magic” went up to #8 in 1982, and was the last big hit for America.
Fast forward 37 years to 2019. After all those years of on-and-off touring and less than successful studio and live albums, America (with Dewey Bunnell & Gerry Beckley) is popular again.
I recently read a glowing review of one of their concerts (by a professional critic), and saw a very positive interview and profile on the CBS TV show Sunday Morning. Their efforts have produced a nice bump in sales for their greatest hits albums.
America: The Complete Greatest Hits is the best collection available. The song list has all 17 of their charting singles, including seven Top 10 hits, four more that made the Top 40, and some popular tracks like “Sandman” that got FM radio play.
If you haven’t listened to the music of America lately, you might want to stream or maybe download this album. You may also want to go back and enjoy their breakthrough 1st album. Of course if they’re in concert nearby, you could check them out, because apparently America is great…still.
Update: America’s post-pandemic touring starts in August 2021.