Tuesday, January 19, 8951

Dewey Bunnell (America) - Horse With No Name

Dewey Bunnell (b. January 19, 1951, Harrogate, Yorkshire, England) is an Anglo-American musician, singer, songwriter, and member of the soft-rock band, America.

Bunnell was born to an American serviceman stationed in England. While attending high school in England he met Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek. After an initial attempt at forming a band in the late 1960's, the trio formed America and released their first album in 1971.

As with the other members, Bunnell wrote, sang, and played guitar. His best known compositions are A Horse With No Name and Ventura Highway.

Bunnell is still a member of America, along with founding member Gerry Beckley.


America is an English-American folk rock band, originally composed of members Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek. The three members were barely past their teenage years when they became an overnight success in 1972. They reached a peak in popularity in the early to mid 1970's and early 1980's. Among the band's best known songs are A Horse with No Name, Sister Golden Hair (both of which reached Number 1), Ventura Highway, and Tin Man.

Although their music was frequently derided by critics, from a commercial standpoint the band's singles and albums were exceptionally successful. They were popular enough to attract the services of famed Beatles producer George Martin for a run of seven albums. The band survived the loss of one of its original members near the peak of its success only to see Beckley and Bunnell return the act to the top of charts as a duo with "You Can Do Magic" in 1982.

Touring for well over three decades, America maintains a following and performs over 100 shows per year. On January 16, 2007, America released Here & Now, the band's first major label studio album in over 20 years.


A Horse with No Name was America's first single.

America's self-titled debut album was initially released in Europe with only moderate success and without the song A Horse with No Name. Looking for a song that would be popular in both the United States and Europe, producer Ian Samwell helped the group to record the song and persuaded the Warner Brothers label to re-release the album with Horse included.

Originally entitled Desert Song, the song was renamed at Samwell's suggestion. It was written on a rainy day in England, in 1971, and was intended to capture the feel of the hot, dry desert Bunnell remembered from his childhood travels through the Arizona and New Mexico desert when his family lived at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

A Horse with No Name was recorded in the key of E minor with acoustic guitars, bass guitar, and bongo drums. The only other chord is a variation of the Em, fretted on the low E and G strings, second fret.

A 12 string plays an added F# (add2 or Em9) on the back beat of the Em. A noted feature of the song is the driving bass line. A "waterfall" type solo completes the arrangement and may have been borrowed from the Dan Peek song Rainy Day, also on the album.

Despite -- or perhaps because of -- its being banned by some U.S. radio stations (including one in Kansas City) because of supposed drug references, the song rose to number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and the album quickly went platinum. The interpretation of the song as a drug reference comes from the fact that "horse" is a common slang term for heroin.

The song's resemblance to Neil Young's work stirred some grumbling as well. It was A Horse With No Name that bumped Young's Heart Of Gold out of the #1 slot on the U.S. Pop chart.

"I know that virtually everyone, on first hearing, assumed it was Neil," Bunnell says. "I never fully shied away from the fact that I was inspired by him. I think it's in the structure of the song as much as in the tone of his voice. It did hurt a little, because we got some pretty bad backlash. I've always attributed it more to people protecting their own heroes more than attacking me."

This song has also been ridiculed for its banal and/or oddly phrased lyrics, including "The heat was hot"; "There were plants, and birds, and rocks, and things"; and "'Cause there ain't no-one for to give you no pain."

Randy Newman once described it as a song "about a kid who thinks he's taken acid." The late comedian Richard Jeni mocked the song's title. "You're in the desert," he said. "You got nothing else to do. Name the freakin' horse!"

The song is featured in the movie The Trip.

[8951 Sting / 8951 Bunnell / 8950 Mothersbaugh]