"Here it is Post-Rock already,
and a pair of neo-classic synthesizers have arisen
to offer a provocative sample
of what may turn out to be
the sound of the Seventies."
It was a cool fall morning and the four of us - Jimmy Seals, Dash Crofts, Bobby Lichtig (their bass player), and I - were animatedly discussing Seals & Crofts' relatively new and quite suddenly successful music career.
"Actually, I think the biggest influence in our music has been Baha'i," said Dash, lounging comfortably back in his red polo shirt and blue jeans. "We felt the spirit of Bahaullah's writings and put this feeling into our songs."
Bahaullah? Baha'i? Wait a minute....!
Bahaullah, it seems, was a nineteenth-century Persian prophet who, as Jimmy softly went on to explain, "claimed that all religions were looking for the return of a messiah or world redeemer, and that He was the One."
"The Baha'i faith," Dash continued, "teaches the unity of people of all races, creeds, religions, politics, and truths." Dedicated to a world free of hate, prejudice, and war, it aims to enable people of all lands to live together in harmony. Being a Baha'i, as Seals and Crofts readily testify, entails changes in all facets of a person's life.
"I've been a Baha'i for about four years and Jimmy's been one for about three, three and a half. In living according to Baha'i teachings, we have changed many of our concepts, our awarenesses of our lives, and therefore our music has changed too. It's actually another awareness that we've come into- a matter of evolution, so to speak. You start out writing songs like 'the leaves are green and the sky is blue and I love you and you love me' - very simple lyrics - but you grow into a much, much broader awareness of life, of love, and of unity. It's really great to be able to say something real in your music."
"Your whole being goes through a spiritual and a physical change," Seals explains. His mouth and chin are circled by a think moustache and a goatee - not necessarily a part of his religion. "Every person who's ever truly followed a religion - any of the great religions - has certainly experienced this."
Jimmy pushes the cap back a little further on his head and says, "All the lyrics on our first album are inspired by the writings of Bahaullah, and I think this makes a difference."
The words of one of the songs, The Seven Valleys, were actually taken from the Baha'i writings and put to music, and there are references in other songs. I asked him the meaning of the lines:
"Earth is my mother, no other, my sanctuary;
But earth is my prison, my grave and my mortuary"
which appear in one of them. And in a thoughtful, almost poetic manner, Jimmy (who wrote all the songs that appear on this album) answered, "Well, we were all put here. We didn't have any choice about getting here. Even in reality earth is a prison, because, as Bahaullah says, the soul is like a bird in a cage, and when the cage is broken the bird flies free. The same thing happens when you've never heard truth before. The real Truth. When you find that, you break your cage. Then you can soar in the air or do anything else you want to do."
I was curious what they meant by the song In Tune.
"There are universal laws that people are already in tune to. They just haven't heard of Baha'i," Dash said smiling. "Actually, Baha'i is only a label, like I have to have a name, Dash, and he has to have a name, Jimmy, to identify each other with."
"In Persia, 'Baha'i' means light."
"It also means the followers of Bahaullah. Actually Baha'i recognizes all the other religions. It's all one story, it's always been one story, and it will continue to be one story."
"Like a book with many chapters," Jimmy adds. "Bahaullah says to love your own kind, human beings," he continues. "That's what we feel when we play, and I think the audience can tell."
"So what we mean by the song In Tune is becoming in tune to these universal laws that govern our lives."
In the song Not Be Found, there's a line that says "the taste of smoke is ecstasy." I couldn't help but think it was a reference to pot, but Seals says otherwise. "To taste the smoke of one's own desires is what we usually call ecstasy. We think that we're in ecstasy whenever we have all the material wealth that we need. If only man knew and could get far enough into it to experience the other, the real ecstasy, he would see the difference."
I pointed out that many people claim to have found some of the hallucinogens useful as a means to religious enlightenment, but both singers, as Baha'is, look negatively upon the use of drugs, at least as a means of spiritual growth.
"People are looking in kinds of paths in search of the Truth, and drugs can sometimes give you glimpses of things - but not necessarily a clear picture," Dash says.
If a person feels that narcotics have helped him to realize certain things," Jimmy picks up, "what couldn't he do if he had the Truth? He could go ten times past what he knew under narcotics."
I was wondering, at this point, just why this particular religion was so appealing. Certainly the Baha'i teaching of love among all mankind must contribute to it. After all, wasn't "love" the keyword of the Sixties, the hope of the younger generation for a more peaceful, livable world? And perhaps Baha'i retains some of the feeling of mystery that the more familiar beliefs have lost for us. Just then Dash answered, at least in part, my unspoken question.
"For the first time we have found our Down Home." (That, by the way, is the name of their new album.) "We have become real for the first time in our lives and are not following any idle fantasies or imaginings."
I tried several times to steer the conversation more specifically to their music, only to find that for these two artists, their religion and their music are inseparable.
"We're not selling religion through our music," Dash continued, earnest and straightforward, "but the concepts of Baha'i do come out in it - like the concept of the oneness of mankind. Well, these concepts come through in our music because we're involved in the unification of this planet. Naturally, then, our lyrics are going to lean toward world unity, world oneness, the oneness of everything. We don't try to put it on anybody through music."
"Another thing." Jimmy lights a cigarette. "It's not so much a thing of putting it in there. It's that it becomes you after a while. You think with a different mind than you did before. Your feelings are different. So when you sit down to write a song, whether you want to be affected by it or not, you are. A lot of people take it to be fanatical and think of us as missionaries or something, but..."
"We're merely Baha'is being ourselves," Dash smilingly concluded. "Religion is just the way we live our lives."
"That's sort of what the song, See My Life, on the first album is about, too. A kind of sum total of our feelings and our lives." Dash pushes some hair out of his eyes. "Baha'is don't try to convert anybody or force it on anybody. It's merely something to be shared with another person and it is up to him to take it or not. One of the principles of the faith is independent investigation, so nobody has to take my word or Jimmy's word for it. They can investigate on their own - it's an individual trip. There's unity and diversity. It's very beautiful."
I commented that each of them really seems to understand the other completely - sometimes to the extent of finishing each other's sentences.
"That's one of the reasons we got together professionally," Dash reflected. "Because we've always had a communication with each other and our phrasings and our thoughts are a lot alike."
It's evident in their singing, in the unbelievably beautiful harmonizing they create.
"We have the same tastes," adds Seals.
"Yes. Even though our backgrounds were in different kinds of music. I was raised around classical music. Jimmy was raised around, oh, country-rock. Then we both evolved through all kinds of rock - kind of country, kind of classical, jazz...all kinds of music. We've known each other most of our lives - we're both originally from Texas - and we worked in groups together, but never together as a duo or never together on these particular instruments, so it's really a brand new beginning for both of us. That started just about two years ago. Now I play dulcimer and Jimmy plays fiddle and guitar."
Their present music is upliftingly joyful, pleasantly sweet, warmly soothing. It could be compared to Simon & Garfunkel's, in sound and in mood, and Seals and Crofts have already been compared to the Beatles, to Crosby, Still & Nash, to the Incredible String Band.
"We call it..." Dash searches his mind for the expression, "...music of the spirit, I guess." He shrugs his shoulders and grins disarmingly. "We've been trying to think of a classification for it since we started playing it, and it's kind of hard to find one." He looks over at Bobby who is sitting alone on the couch. Quietly. "How would you classify this music, Bobby?"
Bobby smiles. "The closest we can come to it I suppose would be folk-rock. It has elements of folk and elements of rock and classical, and a taste of jazz. I think what's happening now is that people are beginning to accept music for whatever it is. It doesn't have to be called anything special. If what it is is good, then it's accepted at face value."
"I think our music is a combination of the Eastern part of the world and the Western," Jimmy interjects. "We've had people from Greece, Israel, England and France, China, everywhere, listen to our music and say, 'Oh, it's music from the old country.' And it really seemed strange to us because we didn't realize it ourselves until we started comparing our work with, for example, Persian music, which, when you listen to it, is really very close to ours. And we had no knowledge of this at all beforehand. So it's just something that happened."
"I think we'd be better off not even to classify it," adds Dash. "Some people have called it religious music. It's not actually religious music, though it is inspired by religion. But no particular musical group influenced us, and I think that's one of the reasons that what is coming out is really us."
"Definitely. We really love doing our music, too," says Dash. "So muc so that we come home after some kind of a hard rock gig and we go in the back room and play this kind of music all night. We've been in the hard rock scene for a long, long time, and we never mind hearing it and being around it. But playing it gets to be pretty tough physically after a while."
"I think more of the older people are starting to like this softer kind of music, too," Jimmy comments. "I think the only thing that turned most older people off to begin with was the loudness. There have been extreme cases where it turned me off."
"It's such a nice relief to just sit and play pretty stuff for a change," Dash concluded.
Speaking for myself, it's a relief - and a great pleasure
- to hear it, too.
A SEALS AND CROFTS SAMPLER
Through the cooperation of Bell Records, STEREO REVIEW is pleased to be able to offer a 45-RPM stereo single of Seals and Crofts singing four songs drawn from their first two albums.
SEE MY LIFE, IN TUNE, HOLLOW REED, and LEAVE
form a capsule but comprehensive view of their composing and performing talents.
To get your copy, send 25 cents to Stereo Review...NY, NY