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Out of My Head

Winehouse’s tragic passing overshadowed music’s other losses

August 1st, 2011 8:46 am by Jan Hearne

God rest singer Amy Winehouse’s poor tortured soul. The singer was found dead July 23 in her London department. The cause of death has not been determined, and her passing has garnered a flood of media attention.
Not so the deaths of Dan Peek, a founding member of the1970s band America, and Rob Grill, founding member and lead singer of the 1960-70s pop band The Grass Roots.
Peek died July 24 at age 60; Grill died July 11 at age 67. If you listened to Top 40 radio in the 1960s and ’70s, you know their songs.
America had a string of hits — “A Horse With No Name,” “Ventura Highway,” “Tin Man” and “Sister Golden Hair.”
I have to admit I wasn’t a big fan, not because they weren’t good but because the radio station played the songs over and over and over again. The forced rhymes on “A Horse With No Name” were an irritant: “In the desert you can remember your name, ’cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.” But I digress, and it’s not my intention to speak ill of the dead.
Whether or not I liked their songs, America was a popular band, and I’m sure its fans are sad — if they heard the news at all. According to Peek’s father, Peek was found dead Sunday in bed in his home in Farmington, Mo. As with Winehouse, the cause of death isn’t yet known.
Grill died of complications from a head injury he suffered in a fall. He was in a coma at a hospice center in Florida for a month before he died. According to his wife, The Grass Roots’ hit “Let’s Live for Today,” Grill’s favorite of the band’s songs, was playing as he slipped away.
This whole scenario is bizarre to me. Rob Grill always will be the ultra-handsome young man I had a crush on as a teenager. He had piercing blue eyes, a super-cool moustache and a great smile.
I am only semi-ashamed to admit I owned, and may still have, more than one of The Grass Roots’ albums. (OK, I might as well go ahead and confess I liked The Association, too. “Never My Love?” What 14-year-old wouldn’t swoon?)
When I was in high school and beyond, you couldn’t turn on the radio without coming across a Grass Roots song: “Where Were You When I Needed You,” “Midnight Confessions,” “Bella Linda,” “Two Divided by Love,” etc.
A little known fact: The Grass Roots played at Tennessee governor Winfield Dunn’s young folks inaugural ball in 1971. I was there because my best friend worked for the Knox County Legislative Delegation. My friend and our dates thought the band was decidedly uncool, but I edged up to the front in my velvet bell-bottom pantsuit to get a better look. Yeah, Rob Grill was cute. Super cute. And that’s how I remember him.
In each of Grill’s obits, Creed Bratton, former Grass Roots guitarist and cast member of “The Office,” was mentioned. Not mentioned was former Grass Roots drummer Rick Coonce, who died Feb. 25 of heart failure at age 64.
His passing should be noted, too.

Jan Hearne is Tempo editor for the Johnson City Press. Reach her at

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