Jim Seals, one half of a popular 1970s soft-rock duo, dies at 79

Jim Seals, one half of a popular 1970s soft-rock duo, dies at 79

Jim Seals, one half of Seals & Crofts, a soft-rock duo who enjoyed a string of hits in the 1970s, including Top 10 singles ‘Summer Breeze’ and ‘Diamond Girl’, died Monday at his home of Nashville. He was 79 years old.

His wife, Ruby Jean Seals, said the cause was an unspecified “ongoing chronic illness”.

Mr. Seals and his musical partner, Dash Crofts, were still teenagers when they were asked to join an instrumental group, the Champs, who had a No. 1 hit in 1958 with “Tequila”. By the mid-1960s, they had grown tired of the band and the loud, sometimes angry strains that infused the hard rock of the era.

Followers of the Bahá’í Faith, they sought to create calmer music, blending folk, bluegrass, country and jazz influences and delivering their lyrics in close harmony.

“Jim Seals plays acoustic guitar and fiddle,” wrote Don Heckman in The New York Times in 1970 in a brief review of their second album, “Down Home,” “and Dash Crofts plays electric mandolin and piano; together they sing a freshly interwoven and quite colorful vocal harmony.

With the nostalgia-soaked single “Summer Breeze”, released in 1972, the two found international stardom. They had developed a modest following, but this song changed everything, as they discovered when they arrived in Ohio to play a show.

“There were kids waiting for us at the airport,” Mr. Seals told the Texas Monthly in 2020. “That night we had a record crowd, maybe 40,000 people. And I remember of people throwing their hats and coats in the air as far as the eye can see, against the moon.

The song, written jointly by the two men, featured the kind of refrain that sticks in the brain:

“The summer breeze, makes me feel good, / Blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”

The single reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a follow-up, “Hummingbird”, made the Top 20. 1973’s “Diamond Girl” reached No. 6. “Get Closer” in 1976 also reached #6.

But the duo’s streak of success essentially ended when the decade ended, and they called it quits for a time.

“Around 1980 we were still drawing 10,000 to 12,000 people to concerts,” Mr. Seals told the Los Angeles Times in 1991, when the two revived the act. “But we could see, with this change coming where everyone wanted dance music, those days were numbered.”

Six years earlier, however, the couple had begun to fall out of favor with some listeners and critics because of their sixth album, “Unborn Child,” released in 1974 shortly after the Roe v. Wade of the Supreme Court on the right to abortion. . The title track urged women contemplating an abortion to “stop, turn around, go back, think.”

Mr. Seals, in a 1978 interview with The Miami Herald, acknowledged that the record had hurt the duo’s career.

“It completely killed him for a while,” he said. Radio stations refused to play the record. Some Seals & Crofts concerts were picketed, although there were also hundreds of letters of support. In the 1991 Los Angeles Times interview, Mr. Seals said the couple never intended the song to be a lightning rod.

“It was our ignorance that we didn’t know this kind of thing was bubbling and bubbling as a social issue,” he said. “On one side, people were sending us thousands of roses, but on the other, people were literally throwing rocks at us.

“If we had known this was going to cause such disunity,” he continued, “we might have thought twice about doing it. At the time, that overshadowed all the other things we were trying to say in our music.

James Eugene Seals was born on October 17, 1942 in Sidney, Texas to Wayland and Susan Seals. His father worked in the oil fields, and Jim spent much of his childhood in Iraan, a boom town in southwest Texas.

“There were oil rigs as far as the eye could see,” Seals told Texas Monthly. “And the stench was so bad you couldn’t breathe.”

His father played a little guitar and his mother played the dobro, so informal jam sessions were a common way to pass the time at home. When a violinist passed by one evening, young Jim was seduced by the instrument and his father ordered one from a Sears catalog.

Later, Jim took up the saxophone, which led to an invitation to join a rockabilly band called the Crew Cats, who played local dances and clubs. The band’s drummer quit just before a show at a junior college, and the drummer of another band on the bill sat – Darrell Crofts, known as Dash.

The two became friends and played with the champions for several years in Los Angeles. Both were proficient in other instruments, including the guitar. Once they succeeded as a duo, they knew the image they wanted to project and tried to stay true to it. In 1973, when they were about to tour England, Mr Seals told a reporter they had pulled out of a previous European engagement.

“We were going to tour there earlier, but changed our minds at the last minute when we found out we were going to be playing with Black Sabbath,” he said. “I’m sure they’re a good band, but I’m not sure the audience would be quite right for us.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. Seals is survived by their two sons, Joshua and Sutherland; one daughter, Juliette Crossley; and three grandchildren. A sister, Renee Staley, and a half-brother, Eddie Ray Seals, also survive him. Her brother, Dan Seals, a singer who found success in the late 1970s as a member of fellow soft-rock duo, England Dan & John Ford Coley, died in 2009. Both brothers toured together for several years before Dan Seals died, with Jim Seals’ two sons occasionally playing with them.

Maia Coleman contributed report.

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