Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley of America have been composers since they formed their group in 1970. But on the duo’s latest album, “Back Pages,” they relinquished that role to instead cover a collection of their favorite songs — mostly dating back to their youths in the ’60s.
“It’s just like a giant patchwork of these wonderful songs we just lived and breathed since we were teenagers,” says Bunnell, 59, who co-founded America in England with fellow military brats Beckley and Dan Peek, who left the group in 1977 and died earlier this year.
“We basically just picked writers we liked ... prolific writers like Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan and James Taylor. Gerry did want to bring in a couple of songs that were, like, 20 years old instead of 40 or 50, but I kind of went straight to the ’60s. I still think that’s the most fertile ground for writers.”
“Back Pages” includes songs by all of those, as well as the Zombies and Buffalo Springfield, along with more contemporary fair from Mark Knopfler, the Gin Blossoms, Fountains of Wayne and New Radicals. The set kicks off with Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” which is a bit like the Rolling Stones singing “Like a Rolling Stone” but was, in Bunnell’s estimation, irresistible for the project.
“If I recall, I was wanting to do a ‘Homeward Bound’ or one of those real early ones,” Bunnell says, “and I think Gerry or somebody thought ‘America’ would be better. It was pretty much like that, just kind of organic. Then I think Jerry was going to sing it, and then we decided, ‘Let’s do it as a duet.’
“I was going strictly for the lyric and the melody, but of course you’re right — America sings ‘America,’ du-uh! It sticks out. But I just love the narrative, and I can remember hearing that song for the first time and playing it over and over and stepping right into that little movie. It’s a great song.”
America performs at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at Andiamo Celebrity Showroom, 7096 E. 14 Mile Road, Warren. Tickets are $25-$69. Call 586-268-3224 or visit www.andiamoitalia.com.
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