Why We Remember America’s Songs
A pop song from the early 1970s comes on the radio. After only a couple of notes, YOU correctly identify the title...or the artist…or both. You’re on your riding lawnmower. All you’ll hear for the next 45 minutes is the roar of the engine….OH…and those nonsensical lyrics of a 50-year-old pop song swimming around in your head….

“In the desert, you can remember your name
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain
La, la, la, la, la, la, la la la…la, la”

Why is it we easily recall useless knowledge like absurd lyrics or a catchy musical riff, but we can’t remember we’re out of toothpaste at home? A handful of bands in the history of popular music were gifted with the ability to write, play, sing and record HIT songs. A HIT song MUST possess what we call in the radio business, a “HOOK”. A lyric, riff, or phrase that makes a song catch the ear of the listener….and remain in their brain….FOR LIFE!

Who IS America?
Today, Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley are 69-year-old partners in what was one of the most popular bands of the 1970s, called AMERICA! They brought their year-and-a-half delayed 50th Anniversary tour to the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, Wednesday, October 20th. Technically, 2021 is their 51st Anniversary year. Thanks a lot, COVID! This was one of about 100 concerts these rockin’ senior citizens play each year. America’s third original member, Dan Peek, left the band in 1977 to pursue contemporary Christian music, where he became a pioneer of the, then, emerging music genre. Dan passed away in 2011.

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Dewey’s and Gerry’s Story
Nearly as much as I enjoyed America’s MUSIC, I enjoyed Dewey and Gerry telling their stories. The two met in England as “military brats”. Their fathers were serving in the US Air Force, stationed in London. The boys started a band, playing covers of popular songs of the day. They attended rock concerts together, witnessing British rock royalty…King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones’ famous concert in Hyde Park, right after the death of Brian Jones. They saw Jimmy Hendrix. The boy’s band actually OPENED for Pink Floyd, performing an acoustic set. Looks GREAT on a resume!

The Crowd
Mary W. Sommervold Hall…let’s call her ”The “MARY”…was nearly filled. “Mature” concert-goers were the norm, most of whom were born in the late ‘50s or early ‘60s. I’m part of that demo, but I was in the company of some younger friends who have “old souls”. This couple wasn’t born until around 1980. Hey, Baby Boomers, Generations X, Y and some Gen Zs LOVE “our music”! That’s a testament to the survivability and impact a successful classic rock or pop-rock band from the 1970s has. BTW, my “old soul” friends dashed from the Pavilion after the America concert to The District to catch The Struts. This Baby Boomer went home and did laundry.

Music AND Video
It goes without saying, Dewey and Gerry are sensational musicians. Both play guitar on every song, and Gerry would sometimes scoot over to the keyboards or pick up a harmonica, like during “Lonely People”. Dewey’s vocals sounded EXACTLY like they did the day he recorded America’s earliest hits. Gerry has one of the most unique singing voices I’ve ever heard, but it absolutely works on each and every America song he sings. Gerry’s the “ballad guy” of the band. America has employed 3 other top-shelf musicians for their 50th Anniversary Tour. Each sings background and harmony vocals. America’s young, talented drummer even sang lead on a couple of songs. These 5 guys play tight together! A BONUS for concert-goers, a fascinating big screen background video for the entire show. It incorporated band photos from their earliest years to historical newsreel footage of celebrities, politicians, protests and military maneuvers. Plus fun, classic, funny California surf scenes. All videos were tastefully and appropriately presented without a political agenda. Refreshing!

America’s Song Set List
Tin Man
You Can Do Magic (Russ Ballard - writer)
Don't Cross the River
Daisy Jane
I Need You
Ventura Highway
Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles - cover)
Cornwall Blank
The Border
Woman Tonight
Only in Your Heart
California Dreamin' (The Mamas & the Papas - cover)
Lonely People
Sister Golden Hair
A Horse With No Name (encore)

America’s Covers
Who would dare turn off the Mamas and the Papas “California Dreamin’“ when it comes on the radio? SUCH timeless and terrific layering and harmonies.
Why would America choose to cover a song by The Beatles? America was blessed to work with Sir George Martin as their Producer on several albums. Sir George ALSO produced 13 albums and 22 singles by the most influential band of all time, The Beatles. Pretty good company!
Wait…NO Muskrat Love? It was track #1 on side #2 of America’s Greatest Hits! Come on, guys!! Next time??

Best Quote of the Night
THEE best quote of the night was from a fellow fan and “brother of the swollen prostate” in the men’s room, post-concert. He announced, “I walked the halls of this building as a KID listening to THESE SONGS!” For newcomers to Sioux Falls, the Washington Pavilion was originally Washington High School. For me, THAT summed up America’s visit to Sioux Falls.

Story by classic rock mega-fan and guest writer Scott Smith, Results/Townsquare Media

America Concert, 2021

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