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Happy Birthday, Dewey Bunnell: Or, America’s Re-emergence as a Superpower

Filed under: Music
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Artvoice street correspondent John Duke reports:

The rock band America, composed of two 20-year-olds and a teenager, released their first album in 1971. Dewey Bunnell wrote, sang, and played guitar. His most well-known compositions are “A Horse with No Name,” ” Ventura Highway,” and “Tin Man.” The band’s mystique and its music quickly became international favorites. The song “A Horse with No Name” raced to No. 1 and knocked sound-alike Neil Young and his song “Heart of Gold” off the top of the charts.

Last year Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley played their custom-made Taylor Guitars to begin the Buffalo/Niagara Falls summer at Artpark.

While the song became America’s signature tune, the band proved it was no one-hit wonder. With their acoustic guitars and pipe organ harmonies inspired by the Beach Boys and the Beatles, they followed up with a string of No. 1 and Top 10 hits that fans remember nostalgically as part of the soundtrack of the ’70s and early ’80s: “I Need You,” “Ventura Highway,” “Sister Golden Hair,” “Tin Man,” “Lonely People,” and “You Can Do Magic.”

“We’re very proud of the catalog we amassed and the longevity we’ve maintained,” Bunnell said before a show at Artpark in Lewiston last summer. “The one comment we always get now is, ‘Wow, we didn’t know you had all those songs.’ All of them were based on our youthful exuberance and idealism, being excited about life. I’m still grateful that at this stage we’re still here and those songs still have legs. When we’re on stage, we play them as if it were yesterday.”

Three years and three days ago (January 16, 2007) America recorded a great new album for the 21st century, Here & Now!, which contain two of my favorite songs bar none: “Ride On” and “Indian Summer”).  It’s a double-disc set with new songs and classic hits on a major label subsidiary of Sony.

America followed the album with two tours of Australia, two of England, Italy, the Philippines and Singapore. The album was boosted by guest appearances by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, Ryan Adams, James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and members of Nada Surf.

“As a result, we found ourselves with a whole new generation of listeners,” Bunnell says. “It was nothing like the old days, but It did the job to keep things going. But our live show is really it for us. It’s a solid, enduring thing, and we can work all over the world. Our songs have legs. They transcend generations.”