Remembering musician Jimmy Seals (1941-2022)
Jimmy Seals was a second-generation musical journeyman in the late 1960s when he and Dash Crofts charted a higher course for their careers. Jimmy E. Seals passed away in the Nashville area on June 6, 2022, at 79.
Through the 1970s, the duo Seals & Crofts defied norms of the business by gaining wide international popularity with many songs reflecting the spirit of the Baha’i Faith — whether directly, as in “Year of Sunday” and “A Tribute to ‘Abdu’l-Baha”; poetically, as in “Hummingbird”; or through proclamations of universal brotherhood, as in “Sudan Village.” Seals sang, picked guitar, fiddled, blew saxophone and co-wrote nearly all their songs.
Between the messages in their serene-spirited music and the numerous post-concert gatherings where they shared the teachings of Baha’u’llah directly, they are acknowledged by many as a significant factor in the youth-driven growth of the U.S. Baha’i community in the early ’70s.
Here is a reflection on the death of musician Jimmy Seals by one of those youth, Anna Resendiz, a Baha’i and professional musical therapist.
The early 1970s were an important time for many of my generation. I graduated from high school just as this decade began and so many tumultuous events gripped our nation and the world.
I was in the college cafeteria after my work shift eating my dinner when another student in my dormitory, Shoreh, came and sat with me. Shoreh knew how important music was to me and asked me to visit her room so she could play for me her favorite new song from the emerging singing duo, Seals and Crofts.
She shared that they were members of her religion–a new religion. She told me that the Baha’i Faith had originated in her place of birth, Persia, today’s Iran, and shared its principles of oneness, equality of women and men, and that science and religion needed to be in harmony.
She invited me to become a member of this global family! And, if I could do it right that moment then I could come to my first community gathering, or Feast, and actually meet Seals and Crofts.
I must admit that I was not sure why I signed up for something I knew so little of, yet the words and gentle nature of the song, Year of Sunday struck a chord in me.
Circumstances prevented me from meeting the singers that time, but when I did get to meet Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts later, it was Dash who spoke and welcomed me to the Baha’i Faith.
I had no idea of the journey that I was embarking on yet it was the deeply meaningful lyrics of Jimmy’s songs that confirmed me daily and renewed my commitment to serving the Baha’i Faith!
Thank you, Jimmy, for being such a spiritual songwriter. Your beautiful lyrics and unique harmonies captured my heart and allowed me to bond with God through his newest Messenger, Baha’u’llah, in a way I never knew was humanly possible.
As a music therapist I have studied intensely how music has such a power to heal. And to have Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdul-Baha’s guidance of how best to incorporate this unique medium into our lives, has been so precious to me and hopefully to others.
Jimmy just seemed to understand this naturally. He shared that his lyrics and melodies often seemed to write themselves and he said he learned how to play the fiddle from a dream as a child.
He was blessed! And to make a living in such a harmonious way with God—now, that is a dream come true. I can imagine that his passing is providing leaven for the advancement of many new souls. Here is a passage from a Baha’i prayer that I feel suits him so well:
O Lord, help Thou Thy loved ones to acquire knowledge and the sciences and arts, and to unravel the secrets that are treasured up in the inmost reality of all created beings. Make them to hear the hidden truths that are written and embedded in the heart of all that is. Make them to be ensigns of guidance amongst all creatures, and piercing rays of the mind shedding forth their light in this, the “first life.”Make them to be leaders unto Thee, guides unto Thy path, runners urging men on to Thy Kingdom.
Thou verily art the Powerful, the Protector, the Potent, the Defender, the Mighty, the Most Generous —‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Born on October 17, 1941 and raised in West Texas, Jimmy Eugene Seals grew up in a musical family, son of country/rockabilly singer and oilfield worker Wayland Seals. At age 9 Jimmy won the Texas state fiddling championship, and in his teens he was writing notebooks full of songs and playing saxophone for a swing band with Crofts, a school friend, on drums. Brother Dan Seals became a country star in his own right.
Jimmy’s first national break came in 1958 when he and Crofts were hired to play with the Champs, a California-based band, in the wake of their hit single “Tequila.” After moderate success, the band dissolved in 1965.
Seals stayed in Los Angeles, did some studio work, wrote and recorded songs, and eventually formed a jack-of-all-trades band with guitarist Louie Shelton and bassist Joe Bogan.
It was 1968 when the group came under the wing of artist manager Marcia Day, who introduced them to the Baha’i Faith. Along with Crofts, they joined musical forces with three of Day’s daughters and formed the Dawnbreakers, a group that went nowhere commercially but was influential to the rest of their lives.
Seals said in a 1993 interview with Goldmine that the words of Baha’u’llah “became the foundation for the writing we did with Seals and Crofts”; though the association was not obvious in every song, they strove to channel their prayers and study of the Faith into all their work.
He met his second wife, Ruby Jean Anderson, through association with the Day family. Crofts, Shelton and Bogan married three of the Day sisters. Shelton resumed his independent career as a session guitarist and Bogan became a music producer. Both became key collaborators with Seals & Crofts under Marcia Day’s management.
The duo took shape in 1969 when they developed some of their more contemplative songs with two-voice harmony accompanied by guitar, mandolin and bass. Ethereal, often intricate, yet easygoing, their sound gradually built a following.
Though it blended well with the “soft rock” genre of the time, much of Seals & Crofts’ work rode outside the pop mainstream — such as their 1972 breakout album, Summer Breeze, which contained only two romantic love songs, with the rest offering overt religious devotion, poetic meditations or social commentary from a spiritual standpoint.
By the mid-1970s their concerts regularly filled halls in America and beyond. While early shows had only three musicians on stage including bassist Bobby Lichtig, later ones saw them backed by full bands or entire orchestras. Seals was known to let loose on country fiddle or demonstrate overtone-rich throat singing in the tradition of Siberian Tuva.
After more than two decades riding the highs and lows of the entertainment industry, Seals settled with his family on a coffee farm in Santa Ana, Costa Rica, to help in the growth and development of Baha’i communities there. He and his wife, Ruby Seals, raised three children, and relocated to the Nashville area in 2005.