America's Most Successful Single, "A Horse With No Name" 1

A depiction of America’s “A Horse with No Name” (Photo by guitarnoise.com)

Originally called “Desert Song”

Penned by lead singer Dewey Bunnell, “A Horse with No Name” was first recorded by folk rock band America. It was released earlier in Europe and later in the US in 1971 and 1972, respectively. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the single gold as it topped charts not only in the US but also in several countries.

America's Most Successful Single, "A Horse With No Name" 2

America (Photo by guitarnoise.com)

Most noteworthy, “A Horse with No Name” was the band’s first and most successful single.

Dewey Bunnell, the songwriter, originally called this song “Desert Song” because he wrote it based on the desert scenery he encountered when his dad was stationed at an Air Force base Santa Barbara County, California. In addition, he wrote this when he was 19. Many have speculated and insisted that this song was about being on drugs. While others misinterpreted it with this issue, Bunnell, on the other hand, assures this is not about drugs at all. Rather, according to him, he based the images in the lyrics on the things he saw while visiting the US.

More About the Song: Its Meaning and the Truth

Many rumors spread after the release of this song. In slang terms, “horse” refers to heroin, which is a prohibited drug. Hence, many people misinterpreted the song is about drugs. However, the band America denied all these allegations.

According to Dewey Bunnell, the “horse” represents a means of entering a place of peace and tranquility. This tranquil place was best represented by the desert, which sounded pretty good to him while he was stuck in rainy England.

A Horse with No Name” narrates a rather abstruse tale about a trip through the desert. It gives a feeling that while the climate and landscape are unforgiving, one can still find comfort in that scenario. Moreover, it also tells that just because it’s a desert, it doesn’t mean that it is a disaster; and just because it is a forest, it doesn’t mean that it’s always peaceful.

As to why the horse had no name and why it went free after nine days, Bunnell doesn’t have any answer. It seems the various listener interpretations are far more colorful than any meaning he assigned to it.

Watch as America performs “A Horse with No Name” below.

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