Their final album for Warner Brothers in 1980 was a far cry from their early years. They seemed to be struggling to find their way in the changing musical landscape. It's telling that their final album was the first and only one without a single writing contribution from Dash Crofts. Jimmy Seals wrote two songs, and collaborated with keyboardist Brian Whitcomb on six songs.
I'm not the first to note that the lyrics to a song they covered, "If and Any Day" by Michael Sembello, Marietta Waters, unintentionally fit their situation: "Tell me how did I lose my way? Isn't there a door that leads to yesterday? Oh, how did I lose my way? Isn't there a door that opens into another day?"
The production and performances were not the problem, rather the material and arrangements, with a couple of exceptions, simply didn't fit them. Nonetheless, a few of the songs had potential and with a bit of grit and funk could have worked well for artists like James Ingram and Michael McDonald
. For jazz fans there was a noteworthy highlight on their final album, Chick Corea
and Stanley Clarke
came in for the track "Stars" which you can find in the jazz-adjacent playlist below. Looking back, Jimmy Seals shared this with the LA Times:
"Around 1980 we were still drawing 10,000 to 12,000 people at concerts. But we could see, with this change coming where everybody wanted dance music, that those days were numbered. We just decided that it was a good time, after a long run at it, to lie back and not totally commit ourselves to that kind of thing because we were like (fish) out of water."
"I was completely out of good material. What I had was so bad that we said: 'Why spend the money to go in and (record) this, knowing that nobody's going to like it, and we're not pleased with it?' If it isn't something you respond to yourself, you can't get that excited about doing it for others."
Louie Shelton shared this in our 2010 All About Jazz interview:
"It was so interesting when I was living in Nashville, some of the universities across America would contact me and say, "We're getting our spring entertainment together, and the students voted to have Seals & Crofts perform, and we have a budget of $30,000, $60,000 or whatever, are they available?" Unfortunately, I'd have to write them back and explain that, yes they're available, but they aren't performing together anymore."
Dash Crofts explained their decision to Tony Bentivegna in a year 2000 interview for the Seals & Crofts website:
"I know we could be making a lot of money and we could be touring and all that but, you know, when you get to a point where you think you said everything you want to say, then it's like beating a dead horse. It's fun, yeah, we loved everything, we love to write and perform and record, but sometimes silence is better than other things. We stopped when we were pretty much in the flow, you know, rather than having to struggle and go back, and do this and that. We just decided that this would be a good time to stop traveling. I mean, we traveled for 30 years! We traveled with The Champs. We did The Dawnbreakers, The Mushrooms. We did Seals and Crofts."
Given their lack of new material, their uncertainty about trends in the 80s, and their decision to pack it in, in retrospect it would have been great for them to have gone out with a bang. Had they not already released a live album in 1976, there would have been a possibility that would have left the door open to occasional tours. Imagine if they had filmed and recorded a couple of farewell concerts in top quality at a packed theater with great acoustics and lighting. Three distinct sets, the first set featuring rock songs with energy, which they certainly had. Followed by a break with an acoustic second set, initially as a trio with the rest of the band on acoustic instruments gradually joining them. Finally, a jazz-adjacent third set heavy on instrumentalsas an encore, fiddle music. That would have been a worthy sendoff for these two remarkable performers and songwriters.
As it is, 2019 marks the 50 year anniversary of their first album, and you're invited to rediscover and celebrate their music.
Seals & Crofts Playlists
- YouTube Seals & Crofts Jazz-Adjacent Playlist
- YouTubeSeals & Crofts Beyond the Hits, 15 Essential Songs
- YouTubeSeals & Crofts After 197410 Definite Keepers
Credits & Sources
- Seals & Crofts website an invaluable source of information about all things relating to Seals & Crofts, the site also has a detailed history of the Champs, and an interview with Dash Crofts.
- Photo: Original base photo by Mark Neal from Pexels.com, free use stock image. Collage and effects A .Bryson
- www.thompsonian.info/sealcrof.html Thompsonian Seals & Crofts page excellent collection of resource links relating to Seals & Crofts.
- Grayflannelsuit this blog has a thoughtful guide to the music of Seals & Crofts.
- Los Angeles Times 1991 interview with Jim Seals
- All About Jazz, Louie Shelton: In Session, January 27, 2010 Quoted above, but the interview contains additional information about Seals & Crofts and Glen Campbell.
- Website of the guitarist Marty Walsh whose first guitar solo on a major recording was the song "Thunderfoot" on the Seals & Crofts album Sudan Village. He has worked as a guitarist with other groups such as Super Tramp and is currently an assistant professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. On his website he shares behind the scenes photos and insights from touring with Seals & Crofts and reveals the surprising origin of the name "Thunderfoot."
- Huelyn Duvall's first hand account of the "Tequila" recording session
- New York Times Aug 7, 1970 article on the Delaney & Bonnie concert in Central Park.
- New York Times Program of Songs By Seals & Crofts Expands Its Range, by Don Beckmannov Nov. 15, 1971.
- People Magazine article about Seals & Crofts from 1976
- Dan Seals profile page
- Bahá'í World News Service Hearing "the Divinity in the music": Dizzy Gillespie remembered at 100
- Website of the Bahá'ís of the United States source used for information about the Bahá'í Faith.