Jim Sells, half of the popular soft rock duo of the '70s, dies at 79

Jim Sells, half of the popular soft rock duo of the ’70s, dies at 79

Jim Seals, half of Seals & Crofts, the soft rock duo that had a string of hit songs in the ’70s, including top 10 singles “Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl,” died Monday evening at his Nashville home. He was 79 years old.

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

Mr. Sales and his music partner, Dash Crofts, were still teenagers when they were asked to join their band, The Champions, which hit #1 in 1958 with the song “Tequila”. By the mid-1960s, they were tired of the band and the loud, sometimes angry sounds that were instilling hard rock at the time.

Followers of the Baha’i faith have sought to make a quieter kind of music, blending folk, bluegrass, blue, and jazz influences and delivering their lyrics in close harmony.

“Jim Sells plays acoustic guitar and violin,” Don Hickman wrote in The New York Times in 1970 in a brief review of their second album, “Down Home,” and Dash Croft plays electric mandolins and piano; Together, they sing in a wonderfully intertwined and utterly colorful vocal harmony.”

With the nostalgia-filled single “Summer Breeze,” released in 1972, the two found international stardom. They developed a modest following, but that song changed everything, as they found out when they arrived in Ohio for a show.

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

The song, written by the two men together, featured the kind of chorus that gets stuck in the brain:

“Summer breeze, makes me feel good, / I cross the jasmine in my mind.”

The single reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and follow-up, “Hummingbird”, reached number 20, and “Diamond Girl” in 1973 reached number 6. “Get Closer” in 1976 also reached number six.

But the duo’s success streak basically ended when the contract expired, and they called it quits for a while.

“By about 1980, we were still attracting 10,000 to 12,000 people at concerts,” Mr. Sales told the Los Angeles Times in 1991, when the two revived the act. “But we can see, with that change that’s coming where everyone wants dance music, that those days are numbered.”

Six years earlier, the couple had begun to fall back on some listeners and critics due to their sixth album, “Unborn Child,” which was released in 1974 shortly after the Supreme Court ruling by Roe v. Wade on abortion rights. The title track urged women considering abortion to “stop, turn, go back, and think about it again.”

Mr. Sales, in a 1978 interview with The Miami Herald, admitted that the record damaged the duo’s career.

“It totally killed her for a while,” he said. Radio stations refused to play the record. Some Seals & Crofts parties have been on strike, although there have been hundreds of letters of support. In a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Sales said the pair never intended the song to be a stunner.

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

He continued, “If we knew it would cause such discord, we might have thought twice before doing it. At that time it overshadowed all the other things we were trying to say in our music.”

James Eugene Sells was born on October 17, 1942, in Sydney, Texas, to parents Wayland and Susan Sells. His father worked in the oil fields, and Jim spent much of his childhood in Iran, a thriving town in southwest Texas.

“There have been oil rigs as far as you can see,” Mr. Sells told the Texas Monthly. “And the stench was so bad you couldn’t breathe.”

His father played guitar and his mother played the dobro, so casual jam sessions were a popular way to pass the time at home. When the violinist came one evening, he took young Jim with the instrument, and his father ordered him one from the Sears catalog.

Later, he took up the saxophone, which led to an invitation to join a rockabilly band called Crew Cats who would perform at ballroom dances and at local clubs. The drummer of the band quit right before the show at Junior College, and a drummer from another band sat on the bill – Daryl Crofts, better known as Dash.

The two became friends and played with the champs for several years outside of Los Angeles. Both have mastered other instruments, including the guitar. Once they had a hit as a duo, they knew the image they wanted to project and tried to keep it. In 1973, when they were about to tour England, Mr. Sales told a reporter that they had pulled out of a previous European engagement.

“We were going to tour there earlier,” he said, “but we changed our mind at the last minute when we found out we were going to play Black Sabbath.” “I’m sure they’re a great band, but I’m not sure the audience would be a perfect fit for us.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. Sales is survived by their two sons, Joshua and Sutherland; Daughter of Juliet Crossley. and three grandchildren. He is also survived by a sister, Rene Staley, and a half-brother, Eddie Ray Sells. His brother, Dan Sells, a singer who achieved success in the late 1970s as a member of another soft rock duo, England duo Dan and John Ford Cole, died in 2009. The two brothers toured together for several years before Dan Sells passed away, with Jim Sells’ sons occasionally playing with them.

Maya Coleman Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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