Dan Peek, co-founder of the rock group America, died unexpectedly in his sleep on Sunday, July 24, 2011, at the young age of 60 in his home in Farmington, Missouri, from an infection of the membrane surrounding the heart. America was one of the most successful rock bands in the world in the seventies. Dan was the son of an Air Force officer and lived all over the world, even in Sumter, S.C. for a while. He and two fellow military brats formed America in Britain.
Dan had one of the most incredible Christian testimonies, and his life offers us so many lessons. According to Dan’s autobiography, Dan Peek: An American Band, he was saved and baptized at age 12 but lived “a lukewarm Christian existence.” Then at age 19 he prayed, “God, if you’ll make this band a success I’ll use it as a platform to tell others about you, to proclaim you to people everywhere.
Dan writes, “Within nine months…America had our first hit single and album…I knew in my heart that God had heard and honored my prayer. Terror seized my heart when I realized the magnitude of what had happened and what I had committed to. I was also terrified because I was sure that to make that proclamation would spell the end of that success. So for the next 7 years I lived a double life.”
Dan then plunged into all the vices associated with rock music stardom. He later warned young people about the dangers of substance abuse, discussing his own struggles with drugs and alcohol, which were necessary to survive the intense pressures to succeed.
Dan and his bandmates wrote many hits which most Americans have heard, such as their first, A Horse with No Name, which became #1. Millions of their albums were sold, including 5 million of their Greatest Hits album, and they will have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After seven years as the highest-earning band for Warner Brothers, America was going to sign a huge new contract. But Dan had everything he wanted in life except happiness. Finally, he desperately kneeled down in his million-dollar mansion on the Pacific Coast in Malibu, California.
Dan writes, “I cried out to God for relief, told Him how miserable I was, what a wretch I’d become and how deeply I longed for Him. I confessed my need for Him alone. I said aloud, ‘I don’t need any of this stuff, the house, the career, the money or the trappings of success. I just need you.’
“In my spirit I heard God accept my prayer and heard Him say, ‘Now you can fulfill that other promise you made to me.’”
He continues, “That night in Malibu, I felt God saying that now was the time to live up to my end of the covenant. It had taken 7 years to break my heart and spirit and make me ready to share Christ with the rest of the world. Instead of reluctance and foot-dragging I wanted to run through the streets and shout it from the mountain tops.”
Dan’s conversion soon led to his departure from the band. He quit the drugs and alcohol and lived a true life for Christ. However, this required sacrifice as he lost income from America, especially from the forthcoming contract increase, and soon his mansion burned to the ground in a forest fire while it was temporarily, accidentally uninsured.
Nonetheless, Dan was still immensely blessed with Biblical wealth. While in high school in Britain, he saw a classmate named Catherine and knew immediately that she was the girl he would marry. Dan said the Sicilians call this the “Thunderbolt.” But she was already dating and then her family moved to Virginia. So Dan enrolled in college near her, only to have her parents refuse to allow Catherine to see Dan. So he moved back to Britain and co-founded America. Shortly thereafter, Catherine got the nerve to leave her parents and went to Dan. They were soon married and lived a blessed life together for forty years, until his recent unexpected passing.
Dan and Catherine were an incredible testimony to God as they were obviously brought together by Him. They were a humble, compassionate, compatible couple. They were so happy together that they co-wrote the hit Lonely People which reached #5 for America. They wrote it to encourage all the single people that hopefully one day they will find their mate and be happily married as they were. They shared many wonderful experiences, including moving to Grand Cayman and living on the ocean for years while renovating an old beach house. Dan said it was probably the most creative time of his life, as he studied the Bible, painted, and wrote songs and prose.
Dan had a second successful music career starting in Nashville singing Contemporary Christian Music, writing and singing the hit “All Things Are Possible” in 1984. But he eventually again walked away from success, this time to be with Catherine back home in Missouri.
There is also a lesson in Catherine’s disobeying her parents’ demand to stay away from Dan, because otherwise she would not have received God’s blessing of being married to him for forty years. Perhaps all of us are sometimes afraid to trust God and thus miss His unimaginable blessings, because we rely on our own limited viewpoint and abilities, not God’s.
While living in Missouri, Dan continued writing and recording in his personal studio in his house. He sold his CDs on his website, which he ran as a ministry and featured Christian articles he wrote. He also corresponded with many fans and friends worldwide through his website and blog wherein he posted frequent stories and comments.
Providentially, several years ago I met Dan through his website and since we were both Christians interested in political issues we soon began regularly exchanging emails. Like The Times Examiner readers and this writer, Dan was very concerned with our country’s departure from our Christian heritage. In fact, The Times Examiner has a special link to Dan because we published several of his political satires under a pen name.
Because so many define Dan’s life only through America, I would like to discuss his Christian life. While his musical days with America produced wonderful, enduring music, the most important thing Dan ever did was to commit his life to Jesus Christ, not just in word but in his daily life.
Since Dan was extremely well-read, and had lived all over the world as a child and a musician, he was highly educated through practical experiences and presented a unique viewpoint. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He read the Bible through five times, and had a photographic memory for Bible verses. Dan was a unique storyteller who could comment on political events by weaving in his own personal experiences and Biblical wisdom.
Yet despite his fame, as a result of his Christian faith, Dan Peek was by far the most humble person I’ve ever encountered, an anachronism in our Age of Narcissism in America. Dan was like an endangered species and an incredible witness through his Christ-like humility. Recently, Psychology Today had a shocking article on narcissism and said now in our society everyone has narcissistic traits. Since narcissistic personality is no longer considered a disorder, it is being removed from the next DSM-V diagnostic manual on personality disorders used for clinical evaluation. While the Bible lists pride as one of the seven deadly sins, now psychiatrists consider it normal behavior in our prideful culture.
Dan faithfully replied to my emails, as well as sending out articles he came across, sometimes with his own comments. He hadn’t had a day off in three years. He worked incessantly, corresponding with people through letters, email, or his blog, while writing prose, songs, and recording in his studio. Dan lived by the Scripture, “to whom much is given much is required.”
It seemed incredible enough that Dan, who once sang his own songs before millions worldwide, would ever respond to anyone, but that was not all. Both Dan and his wife Catherine took prayer requests as well. Dan told me that they were both praying for certain families in the community that were in bad circumstances and needed prayer. And they both prayed for me and my family as needed, e.g. when my mother had an eye operation.
Again, that would be incredible enough, but there’s more. Dan had suffered chronic rheumatoid arthritis since childhood. He was in constant pain from this disease, which would have given most people excuse enough to retire, but not Dan. He worked through the pain and continued to do God’s work with his ministry.
As Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and instructed us to serve others, Dan followed his example and figuratively washed the feet of so many. Because of Dan’s childhood difficulties, about a year ago he donated some of his collectible guitars to the local Ronald McDonald House for an auction to help local children with debilitating diseases. Dan so often put the needs of others ahead of his own.
While Dan is in Paradise now with Jesus, he was such a compassionate and caring person, that I can nonetheless only imagine that he is still on bended knee before the throne of God, begging His mercy upon all the suffering people of the world, especially among his family and friends, and most of all his beloved wife Catherine.
Even as Christians we sometimes forget just how evil and corrupt the world is. It is a sad example that someone with a pure, loving, Christian heart would be struck down in the prime of life by a heart infection. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, that we might die in our own house from an invisible germ. Every day is a gift from God. While I never got to meet Dan in person, I had assumed our paths would cross someday as he wanted to travel with Catherine in an RV, probably through S.C. Our relationships are more valuable than money, and we can never assume that anyone will be here tomorrow.
Dan was a student of Biblical prophecy, and loved Israel and the Jewish people. He was so happy about a recent interview by The Jerusalem Post. Ironically, we had just recently discussed how so many national and local Christian leaders are being called to Heaven, for example, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Dr. D. James Kennedy, and most recently, Dr. David Wilkerson. Dan and I wondered if this was God’s judgment against America, and now it is so sadly ironic that Dan has joined their ranks. In fact, he said he had just finished his “Swan Song” CD, which I think was lamenting the loss of our Christian heritage, along with another of old Christian hymns. According to Dan’s autobiography, he thought up the name America for their band, when they looked over at an “Americana” juke box. Could God be sending us a message, that He has called this humble Christian home, who named and co-founded America, one of the most successful bands in America’s history? Is America the country on its deathbed as well? Perhaps if we repent and live a humble Christian life like Dan did, God will have mercy and spare us.
Dan touched so many lives that his passing leaves a gaping hole that will remain. No one could possibly fill his shoes. But now Dan is without pain and at peace in Heaven, and he leaves behind a wonderful Christian legacy and role model for all of us to live by. Undoubtedly, Jesus has repeated his earthly words to Dan in person: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”