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Album: HomecomingReleased: 1972Charted:
America member Dewey Bunnell wrote this song. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times October 1, 2006, he explained: "It was 1963 when I was in seventh grade, we got a flat tire and we're standing on the side of the road and I was staring at this highway sign. It said 'Ventura' on it and it just stuck with me. It was a sunny day and the ocean there, all of it."
Bunnell's father was in the Air Force and was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara. They were on a trip in the Oxnard area of southern California when they got stranded.
Regarding the lyrics, "Seasons crying no despair, alligator lizards in the air," Bunnell said: "The clouds. It's my brother and I standing there on the side of the road looking at the shapes of clouds while my dad changed the tire."
There's no official "Ventura Highway," but Ventura is a county in California, and Highway 101 runs through it.
Songwriting credits on America's songs were typically assigned to whoever came up with the idea, and that person would be the one who sings on the track. The entire band often made some contributions to the compositions, however, and while Dewey Bunnell gets solo songwriting credit on this song, he did get some help. The band's other primary songwriter, Gerry Beckley, told us: "the guitar lick on 'Ventura Highway' is something that Dan [Peek] and I put together that really wasn't a part of the song. The song is of course, super strong on its own. We had a friend back in England, when he heard it with the guitar lick, he said, 'Oh, you've ruined it!'" (here's the full Gerry Beckley interview
Long before Prince used it
, America incorporated the phrase "Purple Rain" into a lyric, as they sing here:Wishin' on a falling star
Waitin' for the early train
Sorry boy, but I've been hit by purple rain
In this context, the purple rain could be ambition, as the character in the song is ready to move on.
Janet Jackson interpolated this on her 2001 hit "Someone To Call My Lover
." She had never heard "Ventura Highway," but loved the idea when her producers Jimmy Jam
and Terry Lewis played it for her and suggested they use it as the basis for a song.