Dan Peek, a founding member of the rock band America who died late last month, is fondly remembered in Cayman, especially in Bodden Town, where he and his wife lived for a dozen years.
Peek was 60 when he died at his home in Farmington, Missouri, outside St. Louis on 24 July.
He had left America – the country and the band – to find some peace and quiet and settled in the Cayman Islands, buying a rundown, 100-year-old seafront home in Bodden Town and fixing it up.
He came to love Bodden Town so much he named an album after it, and penned his songs Moon Shines on Bodden Bay and Bodden Town, both odes to his adopted home.
Lyrics of Moon Shines on Bodden Bay include: “It is prettier here than San Tropez when the mooon shines on Bodden Bay, the world and its troubles are miles away…”.
He lived in Cayman for 12 years, a time he recalled in later interviews as filled with moments of joy, peace and acceptance.
Harwell McCoy of Bodden Town remembers Peek well and still has a copy of the Bodden Town CD the singer gave him as a gift.
“He used to live the quiet life on Manse Road. How I happened to get to know him was I was chairman of the Bodden Town National Trust committee and he and his wife were very interested and came to the meetings. He said his name was Dan Peek and I remembered the name from America, the band in the ‘70s. I used to love their music,” said McCoy.
The band had several hits, including A Horse with No Name and Lonely People.
A ‘laid back’ guy
He describes Peek as a “very quiet, laid back, very unassuming guy. You would meet him and never figure out in a million years he was a rock star,” he said.
He recalled Peek talking a little bit about touring with the band. “He said it was fun. It seemed to be a love/hate relationship, but he was more of a quiet guy. I think he liked being on tour, I guess, but what it entailed… he used to say it was something he liked doing but at the same time, he would rather be in his own space and privacy. That’s why they came down here. He wanted to live the island life.
“He loved surfing, right off Bodden Town,” he added.
Wife’s fond memories of Cayman
Peek’s wife Catherine, in an email to the Weekender, said: “Our fondest memories of Cayman are so many it is hard to pinpoint just a few. ‘Island time’, our church friends and the beautiful ocean have to be amongst the top,” she said.
“The slower pace of life in Cayman enabled us to truly enjoy every moment of every day. Our fellowship with Christians at Elmslie Church and other bible studies enriched our lives most deeply. Our abiding love for such dear islanders as the late Mavis Powell, Sunshine Bodden and Sir Vassel and Lady Johnson who made us feel so welcome, embodied the true Camanian spirit,” she said.
Peek’s Bodden Town album was dedicated to those Caymanians and several others when it was released in 1999.
The Peeks were drawn to Cayman also because they both wanted to live beside the sea. “Our mutual passion for the sea enabled us to enjoy sailing, swimming, snorkelling every day,” she said.
Cottage in Bodden Town
She described their home on Manse Road in Bodden Town, which was built by a sea captain in 1896, as their “dear little cottage.
” They restored it and named it Morning Glory Cottage.
The home was wrecked in Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but by then the Peeks had sold it and had returned to the US.
“Dan’s life-long dream was to live on an island, and when we left he felt the dream had been fulfilled, so we never did return. We were in Cayman for 12 wonderful years,” she said.
The cottage used to belong to the Carter family, said Mr. McCoy. “They fell in love with the house,” he said. “It was just a beach cottage… They did all the repairs. They loved Manse Road and the people who lived there, they got to know them pretty well. They liked that whole Cayman congeniality. They were just like regular neighbours to everyone.
“He used to do a little jamming at The Edge restaurant. He didn’t do any performances or anything like that, just some jamming sessions.”
The band America, with its two remaining members, played at the Seaview bar and restaurant on South Sound and recorded a live album from that visit, called Grand Cayman, but Mr. Peek was not involved in that. “I remember asking him if he was involved in that, but he said no, that he’d moved on.”
“He continued to write music while he was here. He hadn’t given that up,” said McCoy.
Regulars at The Edge
Philippe Gros, owner of The Edge restaurant said the Peeks were regulars there and that Dan would occasionally jam along with painter Ed Oliver.
“They were my customers, I got to know them a little. [Catherine Peek] would come into the kitchen and tell us what she wanted. He was nice, a great guy… He didn’t talk about his music very much,” he said.
Former Cayman resident Don Young recalled meeting the Peeks at the Elmslie Church in George Town.
“When my wife and I introduced ourselves and heard his name, it meant nothing to us, but I had heard of his band America, and their song Horse with No Name, which had been a hit in the UK as well as in the US. Coming from such a high profile lifestyle as a well-known rock musician and composer, Dan was charmed by my wife’s ignorance of that part of his life. She treated him as an ordinary friend, and his music was not part of our relationship,” he said.
He said Peek was concerned about the environment and pollution. “Cayman provided him with a safe haven where he could have peace and quiet in a beautiful setting, where he could focus on his music. He had been writing some Christian music and songs,” said Mr. Young.
He described visiting the Peeks’ home in Manse Road one day to exchange books to read with the couple.
“We went round to their home to return some books and found them relaxing on the beach below their house. That was typical of Dan, who made the most of the peace and tranquillity Cayman provided for him,” he said.
“Our overriding impression of him was of a man, who was interesting to talk to, and who showed an interest in others. Many will remember him as a musician, but we remember him as one of many friends we met in Cayman,” he added.
Breathing space in Cayman
In interviews, Peek said he had become burned out from life in the fast lane, touring with the band and considering doing a solo tour. Cayman gave him the breathing space to relax and opened up new doors of creativity for him.
He painted, wrote prose and penned more songs than he said he ever had before.
In one interview, he said of his time in Cayman, which he left in 2002: “It just became a time when I wasn’t under pressure to create and yet it probably was the most creative period of my life.”