Seals and Crofts and The Legacy of ‘Unborn Child’

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At this moment, society is witnessing such outrages as Supreme Court justices facing assassination threats, the vandalization of pro-life pregnancy help centers, the wanton desecration of Catholic Churches, and crude interruption of Christian religious services.

These outrages come from those who brag about being “pro-choice.” Their idea of choice apparently stops short of the doors to churches, Christian social service organizations, and the United States Supreme Court now surrounded and protected by unsightly metal fencing.

This incivility and lawlessness come as the result of a prospective federal Supreme Court decision that may return protection of unborn babies and regulation of abortion to the 50 states. In other words, instead of the central government making those decisions, the voters of each state will democratically choose laws, regulations, and protections, as happened for two nearly centuries before the Roe v. Wade decision radically upended longstanding American constitutional practice and tradition.

In other words, should Roe be overturned, the nation will restore what is often called the “status quo ante,” or the way things were before (Roe).

When Roe was handed down in January 1973, there was no need to erect barricades around the Supreme Court building nor provide round-the-clock protection for the justices, their homes, and their families. And surely there was not a thought of committing sacrileges in sacred places of worship.

One-half century ago, many pro-lifers reacted in a variety of legal, peaceful, and thoughtful ways to protest and object to Roe. One particularly creative response involved the composing of a song.

Singer-songwriter Jim Seals died recently, on June 6, at the age of 80. Seals was half of the 1970s duo Seals and Crofts. At the height of their popularity, Seals co-wrote a song lamenting abortion called “Unborn Child.” The duo released a single and album under the song title. It was a courageous and sacrificial decision. Everyone in the music business warned them against releasing a track about a controversial subject in such a high-profile manner. Undeterred, the duo insisted on issuing the song and LP. 

The naysayers proved correct. While their previous four singles all hit the Top 20, “Unborn Child” failed to crack the Top 50. Their prior two albums were significant Top 10 chart-makers, million sellers garnering vast airplay on Top 40 AM stations and album-oriented FM radio, but the Unborn Child LP, like the song itself, was almost universally ignored or boycotted.

Seals and Crofts had positioned themselves in an untenable no-hit zone. Gifted multi-instrumentalists and songwriters, they sported the fashionable hippie look of the day including de rigueur beards and long hair. Although their melodic folk-based “soft rock” was far from hard rock or heavy metal, they were clearly known as a rock act, becoming the most successful rock duo of the period following the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel. When there really was a counterculture — because there still existed a genuine culture to counter — they were part of the counterculture.

Then they released “Unborn Child” in February 1974, almost exactly one year after the Roe decision. The song was co-written by Seals and Lana Bogan, who had penned the poem that he put to music. Suddenly the leftist and feminist counterculture disowned Seals and Crofts for singing the lyrics: “Oh little baby, you’ll never cry / nor will you hear a sweet lullabye.” 

The duo was in a sense cancelled before a cancel culture formally existed. It’s helpful to remember that at this time in history, the counterculture provided the main advocacy for “free speech.” But like today on Twitter and Facebook, there are limits enforced by progressive —then called New Left —gatekeepers.

On the other hand, there was no vibrant traditional media culture prepared to embrace and promote long-haired hippie-garbed rockers at that time. No FOX television networks and very little Catholic radio or TV.

The duo accepted the commercial downturn philosophically. While other artists were often lionized for putting their art and ideas ahead of commercial success, Seals and Crofts were ignored and even ostracized. To their credit, they never seemed to have retracted, apologized, or complained about their lot in life. Instead, they carried on, continuing to record through the 1970s, and the twosome even scored another sizable 1976 hit with the soulful “Get Closer.” But they never came close to reclaiming their former position as the dominant duo on the rock music scene. 

Perhaps they found solace and redemption in their religious belief that had first motivated “Unborn Child.” Once again, Seals and Crofts defied easy stereotypes. Were they Roman Catholics? No. Were they Evangelical Christians? Not that either. True to their countercultural roots, they had become followers of the relatively new, small, and unknown Baha’i religion during the topsy-turvy 1960s. 

Their music career had actually launched a decade earlier. With fellow-Texan Dash Crofts, Jim Seals had been making a living in the music world since the late 1950s when the two musicians joined a group called The Champs, who had already topped the charts with an instrumental titled “Tequila.” Performing as members of The Champs, Seals played saxophone and Crofts played drums. They also wrote songs for The Champs as well as other artists, most notably Rick Nelson’s “Only the Young” and “When the Chips Are Down.”

The twosome moved to the West Coast where they developed into the namesake duo, composing sophisticated acoustic folk and soft rock, while turning to such string instruments as guitars, mandolin, and violin. Following a series of albums and singles, the duo’s talent and persistence prevailed. In 1972 they released the luminous “Summer Breeze,” complete with a trendy and redolent chorus about “blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind.” 

The single and Summer Breeze album hit the Top 10. Seals and Crofts were on their way. In short order, they followed up with “Hummingbird,” “Diamond Girl,” and “We May Never Pass this Way Again.” 

Then Seals and Crofts put their beliefs ahead of their commercial success and acclaim. “Unborn Child” was the result of their deeply held ideals and the cause of their declining radio airplay and record sales. 

With Roe and abortion constantly in the news, it’s worth remembering someone who in his own unique way contributed to and sacrificed for pro-life values. Jim Seals’ unique contribution resulted in the first major national record label pro-life release, “Unborn Child.”

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