Jim Seals, who as the primary vocalist of Seals and Crofts helped pioneer the summery soft rock sound that came to define easy listening in the 1970s, has died at the age of 80.
As Variety reports, his passing was confirmed by multiple people including his cousin, musician Brady Seals. “I just learned that James ‘Jimmy’ Seals has passed,” he said. “My heart just breaks for his wife Ruby and their children. Please keep them in your prayers. What an incredible legacy he leaves behind.” No cause of death has been made public.
Born in 1942 near his hometown of Iraan, Texas, Seals’ began his musical training around the age of six, when his father ordered him a fiddle from the Sears catalog. He began playing saxophone at 13 years old in 1955 joined a rock and roll band called Crew Cats.
It was around this time that he met Darrell “Dash” Crofts and invited him to join the Crew Cats. The boyhood friends quickly became in-demand touring musicians, joining the The Champs shortly after their smash novelty song “Tequila” went to No. 1 in 1958, and staying with the group until 1965.
Seals and Crofts also played with The Dawnbreakers and backed Glen Campbell, and in 1967 both converted to the Baha’i faith. As Seals recalled in a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times, studying Baha’i principles inspired him to begin writing his own music.
“It was the only thing I’d heard that made sense to me, so I responded to it,” he said. “That began to spawn some ideas to write songs that might help people to understand, or help ones who maybe couldn’t feel anything or were cynical or cold. Lyrically, I think music can convey things that are hard sometimes for people to say to each other. But through a song, through someone else’s eyes, they can see it and it’s not so much a confrontation.”
In 1969 the duo released their debut album, Seals & Croft, and they followed that with 1970’s Down Home and 1971’s Year of Sunday, which spawned their first minor hit, “When I Meet Them.” Their fourth studio album, 1972’s Summer Breeze, would change their lives forever.
“Summer Breeze” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it’s cultural impact has only grown since then. The song is a staple of Yacht Rock programming and has been covered innumerable times, becoming a hit for The Isley Brothers in 1974.
Between 1969 and 1980 Seals and Crofts released 11 studio albums and earned several more hits, including “Diamond Girl,” “Hummingbird,” “We May Never Pass This Way (Again),” “I’ll Play for You,” “You’re the Love,” and “Get Closer” featuring Carolyn Willis. They broke up in 1980, intermittently reuniting to tour and getting back into the studio for one last album, 2004’s Traces. Revisit some of Seals and Crofts’ best-loved songs below.