In the little more than a year that I’ve been doing this weekly Throw Back Thursday feature I’ve highlighted a number of artists who managed some degree of crossover success, going from the Christian music genre to mainstream pop music. Amy Grant, Stacie Orrico, Jars Of Clay, and for at least one song, “Butterfly Kisses,” Bob Carlisle. That is certainly not an exhaustive list of Christian artists who have gained some level of popularity among the mainstream, and I’m sure I’ll be featuring more artists like those in the coming months.
There are fewer artists who cross over the other way, going from mainstream pop music to Christian music. Glen Campbell had a few albums that were predominately aimed at the Christian market. And John Elefante had a few Christian albums after leaving the mainstream rock band Kansas.
This week I’m featuring one of the first artists to cross over from mainstream pop to contemporary Christian music, Dan Peek. Peek was a founding member of the group America. He and Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell met in England while all three of their fathers were stationed there while in the US Air Force in 1970. Their first album, “America,” came out in 1971 and included the hits “A Horse With No Name” and “I Need You.” They won the Best New Artist Grammy Award in 1972.
The trio released “Homecoming” in 1972, featuring “Ventura Highway.” In 1973 they released “Hat Trick” and in 1974 “Holiday,” which featured “Tin Man” and “Lonely People,” which Dan Peek wrote. America would release three more albums before Peek left the band, “Hearts” in 1975, “History: America’s Greatest Hits” in 1975 and “Harbor” in 1977.
Shortly after the release of “Harbor” Dan Peek left the group and rededicated his life to Jesus. He signed with Lamb & Lion Records, founded by Pat Boone, and in 1979 released his first Christian album, “All Things Are Possible.” Both Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell did background vocals on this album, which would turn out to be the last time the three of them recorded together.
It would be five more years before Dan Peek put out another solo album, which he did in 1984 with “Doer Of The Word.” Gerry Beckley again provided background vocals. In 1986 he released “Electrovoice,” which contained a remake of the America hit “Lonely People,” with a slight tweak to the lyrics to make it more overtly Christian. He would record and release one more solo Christian record, the 1987 “Cross Over” before going into semi-retirement.
Peek did some collaborations and there was a “The Best of Dan Peek” album in 1988. Dan died in his sleep at his home in Farmington, Missouri on July 24, 2011. He was 60.
Here’s the studio version of “Lonely People” from the 1986 “Electrovoice” album.
And here’s Dan with America doing the original version from 1974.
This is another fan-generated video, it’s “Doer Of The Word” the title track from the 1984 album.
This is behind-the-scenes footage of Dan Peek, producer Chris Christian and Gerry Beckley as Gerry is getting ready to record background vocals on “Doer Of The Word.”
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