A Horse With No Name

The folk/rock group America originally consisted of three members: Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek.  They were all U.S. Air Force brats whose fathers were stationed in the UK.  A Horse With No Name, went on to top the American singles chart for three weeks in early 1972 and reached No.3 in the UK.  I like the song, and can actually remember most of the lyrics, but I have one question:  why didn’t the dude give the horse a name???

A Horse with No Name
America

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la

After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la

After nine days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings
The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la

Songwriters: Dewey Bunnell
A Horse with No Name lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

35 thoughts on “A Horse With No Name

  1. Would you like to know the real reason for not naming the horse? So would I, but here is my theory:
    If you give a friend a name, they become real. You hear it in the movies all the time, farmers telling their kids not to name food animals because they will eventually have to lose (eat) them. In this case, the rider is riding the horse into a desert, and there is no guarantee either he or the horse will come out the other side. Deserts often spell tragedy.
    However, in the song, the horse and rider both emerge from the desert onto the coastline, and the rider is able to reward the horse by letting it go free. He is not attached to it as he would be were he to have given it a name. It also allows him to be free of the responsibility of caring for the horse. Naming it would have made him responsible.

    Okay, now the real truth. When Dewey Bunnell wrote the song, horse with no name was easier to sing than horse with no mane. The n to m switch just didn’t sound as poetic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You just clarified something that I had gotten wrong for all these years!!! I have a pragmatic mind that doesn’t lend itself to poetry or interpretation of art or literature. I interpret everything literally. That said, I always thought when the song said, “After nine days I let the horse run free, ‘Cause the desert had turned to sea” that a big storm had come along and flooded the bloomin’ desert!!! But your explanation, that they came out of the desert and to the coastline, makes much more sense!!! Thanks! I took two college lit classes under a prof named Ron Heise, who was a great guy and we were friends, but I drove him batty because I could never see the deeper meanings behind the words. It’s just the way my brain works.

      I am still deeply disturbed by the poor horse having no name, however. I have always named my cars … the last one was Sadie. And even my vacuum has a name: Bertha … Big Bad Bertha. It seems to me that not naming the horse was disrespectful and showed a lack of caring, as if the horse simply wasn’t worth the time and effort to think up an appropriate name.

      Your last explanation is likely the correct one 🐴

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      • I love writing stories about stories, and I love writing poetry that says what it means. But a well-known Canadian critic said .to me it isn’t poetry if it doesn’t hace a deeper meaning. I said, it is the reader who gives it deeper meaning, I doubt the poet ever thought of a poem that way. It was like talking to a religious believer, he “knew” poets put in deep meanings.
        Poets talk to themselves through poetry. Resders read to themselves using poetry. I’m happy if someone reads my poetry and it talks to them. What it says is up to them.
        I guess I’m not a poet, lmao.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Exactly! Art, poetry, literature, music … there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to interpret them. Each person may take away something entirely different from the experience. There shouldn’t be rules governing art.

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            • Hmmmm … perhaps you are right … I never thought about it before. But you are right. It’s why I refuse to read a book review before reading a book, for it can colour my view of the book beforehand and it doesn’t get a fair chance.

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              • Thank you for “colour,” it really wasn’t necessary. Yes, any kind of recommendation or panning, by a critic, a friend, a stranger, or even a loved one can change how you view anything. Best to come to something on your own, and find out how you feel about it, especially if it’s intials are DJT, lmfao….

                Liked by 2 people

                  • It’s called Trumpitis. It used to only affect Bridge players, but of late it is infesting the whole USofA. It is a form of the AIDS virus, once it is out there, it has no antidote. MJy berst advice is turn oiff your computer for 2 to 6 years, by then it will hopefully have run its course. But beware Pencitis, or Moorosis, both are being developed as we speak. Also beware Huchablight, coming to a farmer’s field near you…

                    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy you liked it. You mean his name was “Anonymous Dude”, or that he was anonymous? And, as I told Keith, the problem I have with him (I’m assuming gender here) having no name is that … how did they guy call him. “Here, no name … come here, no name”? Or “Giddyap no name”? As you know, I even name my cars and my vacuum cleaner (Big Bad Bertha), so I obviously like things to have a name. 😀
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved America. Maybe the horse had no name since the whole setting was transient and pretty much fatal, to the river with no name, even to the singer…he doesn’t say his own name either. It seems like one of those ‘moving through life’ songs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, great song by a great group. Maybe the question you raise is answered simply that “horse with no name” is more poetic. I remember Gregg Allman saying his song “Melissa” was so named when he was looking for a name and heard a mother fussing at her daughter Melissa in a store.
    Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked the song, Keith! Yes, I suppose it is more poetic, but it just always bugged me that he spent all that time with the horse and didn’t give it a name. Like, if he wanted to say something to it, what did he say? “Come here, no name”? “Giddyap, no name”. See?

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