Dan Seals Passes

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• March 26, 2009

Nashville pop and country star Dan Seals has died at age 61.

“Dan lost a two-year battle with lymphoma,” reported his longtime friend and manager Tony Gottlieb. “He was a beautiful man.”

Seals sang the Country Music Association’s 1986 Single of the Year, the upbeat, nostalgic “Bop.” It was also a significant pop-crossover chart success. In addition, his “Meet Me in Montana” duet with Marie Osmond led to the pair winning the CMA Vocal Duo of the Year award in 1986.

Born February 8, 1948, Danny Wayland Seals was a West Texas native who was part of a large clan of music makers. Older cousin Johnny Duncan (1938-2006) also became a country star. Brother Jim Seals was in the pop hitmaking duo Seals & Crofts. Nephew Brady Seals found fame in the bands Little Texas and Hot Apple Pie. Older cousin Troy Seals was a pop and country stylist who was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Uncle Chuck Seals co-wrote the country standard “Crazy Arms.”

Dan’s father Wayland, an oilfield worker, played in a country band. Both Dan and older brother Jim performed in it as youngsters.

In Dallas, Dan Seals and his teenage friend John Ford Coley joined the rock band Southwest F.O.B. The group had a minor hit with “The Smell of Incense” in 1968.

The two next formed a duo. As “England Dan,” he sang lead in England Dan & John Ford Coley. Their 1975-79 pop hits included “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” “Nights Are Forever Without You,” “It’s Sad to Belong,” “Gone Too Far,” “We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again” and “Love Is the Answer.”

Seals attempted a brief pop solo career and went bankrupt before turning back to the country sounds he was raised with. He first made the country hit parade with 1983’s “Everybody’s Dream Girl,” which he co-wrote. His self-penned “God Must Be a Cowboy” became his first top-10 country hit the following year.

Between 1984 and 1990, Dan Seals had 16 consecutive top-10 hits and 11 No. 1 singles. He wrote or co-wrote “The Wild Side of Me,” “My Baby’s Got Good Timing,” “Everything That Glitters,” “You Still Move Me,” “Three Time Loser,” “One Friend,” “Big Wheels in the Moonlight,” “They Rage On” and “Love on Arrival.” Other big hits included “Addicted,” “I Will Be There,” “ My Old Yellow Car” and his revival of Sam Cooke’s “Good News.”

All of the big Seals hits, both pop and country, were produced by Kyle Lehning in Nashville. In fact, the Gold-selling “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” was the first hit record Lehning ever produced. The voice of Dan Seals launched his career.

“It’s a sad day,” said Lehning. “He was like a brother to me. I can’t imagine a sweeter, gentler, kinder man. He was just a wonderful human being. It was always great fun being around him. We made some wonderful music together.”

Following a long stint with Liberty/EMI/Capitol, Seals recorded for Warner Bros. Records in 1991-94, Intersound in 1995-98 and Lightyear in 2002-04. His Won’t Be Blue Anymore album became a Gold Record. Nights Are Forever by England Dan & John Ford Coley is also a Gold album. The Best of Dan Seals is Platinum.

Seals impressed audiences with his charismatic 6’2” physicality as well as his showmanship. During his concerts, he played rock ‘n’ roll saxophone, as well as guitar. A lefthander, Seals played a specially strung right-handed guitar upside down and backward. He memorably entertained at the Riverfront Stage during the 2002 Fan Fair festival.

There was a contemplative side to him as well. Dan Seals was a Baha’i, a member of a faith that believes in religious tolerance and in the spiritual unity of mankind.

“There’s a side of me that dreams and hopes for a better world,” Seals said. “I think with my heart. I believe that the people of our planet are all one family.”

Dan Seals died peacefully yesterday evening around 8:30 p.m. surrounded by family and friends.

He is survived by wife Andrea, daughter Holley May Lizarraga and sons Jimmy, Jeremy and Jesse, as well as mother Sue, brothers Jim and Eddie and sister Renee. Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

Read Principled Man—Dan Seals

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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