#OTD in 1971: America Released "A Horse with No Name"

JANUARY 01: TOP OF THE POPS Photo of AMERICA, Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell & Dan Peek performing live on Top Of The Pops TV Show (Photo by Ron Howard/Redferns)
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(Ron Howard/Redferns)

Dewey Bunnell was just a 19-year-old British kid when he wrote America's signature single, "A Horse with No Name." Originally titled "Desert Song," it was influenced by his childhood experiences in Southwestern America as the child of an American serviceman.

When nothing on the band's self-titled debut full-length sounded strong enough to label execs to be a single, Bunnell pulled out "A Horse with No Name" at a last-minute recording session. The song--released on November 12, 1971--was an instant success in Europe, leading to it being added to subsequent pressings of the album.

The song's success was quickly replicated in America, where it was issued as a single January of 1972. It shot straight to the top of the Hot 100, despite rumors that the "Horse" in the title was a reference to heroin.

Some attributed the song's appeal to Bunnell's vocal resemblance to Neil Young, especially after "A Horse with No Name" pushed Young's "Heart of Gold" out of the #1 slot on the charts.

"I try to use a different voice so that I won't be branded as a rip-off," Bunnell told Rolling Stone in 1973. "It's such a drag, though, to have to not sound like someone when you can't help it in the first place."

The song's enduring appeal is bolstered by constant placements in movies and TV shows (Breaking Bad, Bojack Horseman, American Hustle), as well as video games (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas). 

Listen to Michelle Branch and Patrick Carney cover "A Horse with No Name" for Bojack Horseman below.

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