Via a short stay in Pakistan, the family ended up in London, England and it was at London Central High School, a school for children of U.S. armed services personnel, where he met Bunnell and Beckley. All three were musically inclined, and when they decided to form a band, they wanted to avoid anyone thinking they were Brits trying to sound American, so they settled on the name America.
Their 1971 debut album, “America,” shot out of the gate with the single “A Horse With No Name,” which many listeners initially mistook as a new Neil Young song. Young was on the chart at the time with his yearning hit “Heart of Gold,” which “Horse With No Name” bumped out of the No. 1 slot as its popularity crested.
Peek’s writing and lead vocal were featured on the band’s hit “Lonely People,” which peaked at No. 5 in 1975.
The threesome returned to the No. 1 slot for the final time in 1975 with “Sister Golden Hair,” and by 1977 Peek felt compelled to escape the pressures of producing more hits and to give up the self-destructive path he was on at the time.
“I was a spectrum drug abuser, alcoholic, you name it,” Peek said later while discussing his 2004 autobiography, “An American Band: The America Story.” “There are times I’d wished I’d never even written it, because as I was writing it I went back in time, and frankly, there were so many ugly parts to being in this business. And it really just dredged up a lot of that anxiety and freakiness of having been that persona at that time. And there was a lot of friction that got worse and worse between the three of us because of this being together 24/7.”
Peek left the band shortly after the February 1977 release of the Harbor album. Years of life on the road had taken a toll on him. He renewed his Christian faith and had begun to seek a different artistic direction than Beckley or Bunnell. He went on to sign with Pat Boone’s Lamb & Lion Records and found modest success as a pioneering artist in the emerging Christian pop music genre.
Peek’s debut solo album, All Things Are Possible, was released in 1979. Chris Christian co-wrote, produced, and contributed acoustic guitar and backing vocals on the album. The title track reached the Billboard charts, making the Top 10 in the A/C Billboard chart and number 1 in the Christian charts, becoming one of the earliest contemporary Christian music crossover hits. Another song on the album, “Love Was Just Another Word”, was recorded in Los Angeles and written by Chris Christian and Steve Kipner. Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell contributed the background vocals. This was the last time the three original members of America recorded together. At the 22nd Grammy Awards, the album was nominated, losing in the Contemporary Gospel category to The Imperials album Heed the Call. Peek followed All Things Are Possible with Doer of the Word, which hit number 2 in the Christian charts. Gerry Beckley contributed background vocals, which were recorded at Chris Christian’s studio in Los Angeles while Peek was there.
Peek waited five years before releasing a second solo album, 1984’s Doer of the Word. 1986 saw the release of his Electrovoice album, again to the CCM market, which included a remake of “Lonely People”, featuring a very similar lead vocal treatment and overall arrangement to the original America version. He changed some of the song’s lyrics to reflect his Christian faith, for example, the lines “And ride that highway in the sky” and “You never know until you try” became “And give your heart to Jesus Christ”.
Peek spent much of the 1990s in semi-retirement, occasionally recording music at his home in Bodden Town, Grand Cayman Island. He released several solo projects and collaborated with Ken Marvin and Brian Gentry as “Peace” on three albums. In the years before his death, Peek released music via his website. His last musical collaboration was performing lead vocal on a track on the 2011 album Steps on the Water by Etcetera.
When Dan Peek was a young boy, he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and had to be hospitalized for weeks 100 miles (160 km) away from the family home; his parents could only visit occasionally. Peek remembered this experience when, about a year before he died, he decided to dispose of five of his vintage guitars. Because the Ronald McDonald Houses exist to provide housing for families of hospitalized children close to hospitals around the United States and the world, Peek donated these five guitars to the San Diego house, which were subsequently sold to a collector, resulting in a $50,000 donation.
Dan Peek died in his sleep from Pericarditis, an inflammation of the heart sack, at age 60.