The name may not be recognizable, but the face and especially the voice are. Beckley was a founding member of the pop group, America.
Beckley and Dewey Bunnell still tour and record as America fifty years later. Beckley is the tall, bespectacled blonde, with the high voice often highlighting the band’s ballads and more introspective songs.
For America, Beckley contributed a few songs to each album. In later years, he and Bunnell wrote or co-wrote every song. During the 1980s especially, record companies and producers gave them songs to record or hooked them up with songwriters, hoping to score radio hits. Later on, when making hits was not the mission, Beckley and Bunnell took back over the songwriting, like they did in the early days. Here are some of the songs Beckley wrote or co-wrote for America:
I Need You, To Each His Own, Till the Sun Comes Up Again, Only in Your Heart, Submarine Ladies, Goodbye, Another Try, Mad Dog, Daisy Jane, Sister Golden Hair, Lovely Night, She’s a Liar, Sarah, Sergeant Darkness, Now She’s Gone, 1960, All My Life, Survival, Right Back to Me, One in a Million, Inspector Mills, Sometimes Lovers, Love’s Worn Out Again, Unconditional Love, Hope, Mirror to Mirror, Close to the Wind, From a Moving Train, Wednesday Morning, Hidden Talent, One Chance, Love & Leaving, Look at Me Now, All I Think About is You, Driving, One Horse Town, Green, Many Colours, Don’t Let Her Close Your Eyes.
Beckley’s songwriting, though always reflective and hook-laden, has matured over the years and he’s writing his best songs in the latter part of his life. He is an accomplished musician and often works alone in his studio.
Beckley’s America career is quite blog worthy, but he also has a very successful solo recording career. Beckley hooked up with Robert Lamm of Chicago and Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys for a one-off album, Like a Brother (2000). I was very excited, given these talented individuals, and then I heard the album. I was disappointed to put it mildly. The songs were less than spectacular, and the production was thick and overblown. It was a missed opportunity for these remarkable songwriter/musicians, but below I have include a link to one of the better songs on that album.
Let’s take a look at each of Beckley’s solo releases.
GO MAN GO The Remixes (2000) The original Van Go Gan album came out in 1995. These are mostly souped-up versions of those songs.
Van Go Gan (In Arles We Can All Breathe) 5:11
Goodbye Highway (The Sporty Remix) 5:12
I Need You (’72 Vintage Reissue) 2:48
House Of Cards (The Parsons Mix) 3:57
Van Go Gan (Oil & Water Mix) 4:27
What Happened? (And Then What Happened?) 1:33
Now Sue (What It Ain’t And Is) 2:54
Location, Location, Location (Hollywood Hills W/Vu) 1:48
Sunrise Sunset (Coming Home) 2:43
Gliss (Just Gliss) 0:36
Kiss Of Life (98% Sure Remix) 4:44
Hard To Sleep (Insomnia Variations) 3:24
Van Go Gan (Ravi MacTaggart Fife & Drum Corps Mix) 4:40
Daisy & Di (The Bells Of Alfriston) 1:56
HORIZONTAL FALL (2006) This is easily my favorite Beckley album, and as good as any America album. I love this album so much that I play it on a regular basis. There are no weak songs on the album.
Here & Now
Warm Gone Gray
I’ll Be Gone
With Me Always
Keeping The Light On
The Farmer Is The Man
Love & Leaving
HAPPY HOUR (2009) Not a new collection per say, it is a combination of the Van Go Gan remixes, previously unreleased songs, live versions of three America songs he wrote, plus three songs from the Like A Brother trio album.
Sunrise Sunset (Coming Home Remix)
Watching The Time
Kiss of Life
So Long Marni
Hang Your Head High
Van Go Gan
I’ll Be Gone
Only A Kid At Heart
Goodbye Highway 09
Sheltering Sky – A Beckley/Lamm/Wilson collaboration. Not bad.
Smile (Happy Hour Mix)
Submarine Ladies (Live)
Til The Sun Comes Up Again (Live)
UNFORTUNATE CASINO (2011)
Cup of Rain
Nature’s Way 2:55
Minutes Count 3:10
Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying 3:00 – A wonderful cover of the Gerry and the Pacemaker classic.
Widows Weeds 1:31
No Way I’m Gonna Lose You 5:34
Once A Distant Heart 2:27
To Each And Everyone 3:24
FIVE MILE ROAD (2019) This is probably my least favorite of the Beckley solo albums. Songwriting, a step below the standard he set. These are not bad songs, just not as good as past work. Production wise, more basic and less techie than his other albums.
Life Lessons 3:59
Something To Remember 3:37
Home Again 3:53
Five Mile Road 3:58
Hang Your Head High 3:31
So Long Marni 3:45
Heart Of The Valley 3:50
Stop Feeling Sorry 3:24
Sudden Soldier 4:04
Two People At Once 4:20