by Steve Goetzman, [email protected]
In America we look up to a man of principle after doubt is satisfied we’ve placed our fingers in his wound looked him in the eye and maybe pressed a little to be sure he is hurting. For we intend to align ourselves and tell his story and should be certain because are we not a man of principle, too? Dan Seals was a man of principle. This story can be told by a witness.
Dan’s agency scored an exclusive relationship with a cruise line of ships sailing from Singapore. Led by a flamboyant man bent on featuring high-profile American acts on board his ships, the cruise line CEO threw exorbitant, staggering sums of money at available talent and enjoyed it immensely. He treated his customers to luxurious entertainment and himself to the joys of sharing-the-wealth. A parade of American acts made the trek to Asia, performed a handful of shows on week-long cruises and returned home with more cash than some of them made in a year. In the end the CEO disappeared and the account dried up, but not before Dan would have his chance at the cash carousel.
Dan Seals was a mountain of talent. Through the latter years of his career he played shows as a trio because he could overwhelm any audience with his diminutive act—a couple of deeply talented ‘sidemen’ who would be insulted by the title, and rightfully so. During an age when performing with less than a full band, or acoustically, or to pre-recorded tracks sorely limited opportunities, Dan’s little trio played the big and small stages and all in between. A tight, low-overhead, easy to transport act with enough punch to compete at all levels, Dan’s little trio covered a lot of ground and made money.
Shortly before a Holiday season the cruise line needed an act in a hurry and loved the idea of presenting Dan Seals. The agency called Dan’s long-time manager and friend, Tony Gottlieb, and floated an offer of $90,000. “Dan won’t do it,” came the shocking reply. Dan was booked on a show out west for $3,500 right smack in the middle of the Singapore cruise and he would not break his contract. Dan’s manager suffered every manner of persuasion the agency could muster, but held his ground. Finally, with deadlines sizzling, the agency got permission to approach the $3,500 promoter and offer a replacement act for Dan. If he were voluntarily released from his contract, Dan said, he would go to Singapore.
Concert promoters who buy $3,500 acts are usually gambling with scared money. Dan’s promoter had paid out a few thousand dollars for advertising and needed the show to recoup his investment. The agency offered to reimburse all costs and provide a replacement act, but no go. Acting on fear or principle, the promoter would not release Dan.
The Bahia faith is a mystery to many on Music Row, yet it came as an explanation, at least in part, for Dan’s decision to honor his contract and pass on the cruise in Asia. For whatever reason he held in his heart, Dan Seals and his family enjoyed a $3,500 Christmas, and what could have been his $90,000 sailed away at Singapore.
Our beloved music business manufactures heroes daily, spins them out and hopes the plastic won’t snap in transit. Mature artists well past prime will join with the new heroes, one needing the other bad, a mutual anointing, for the mirror. The new hero gets a float, the old guy gets fifteen more minutes, and everyone else applauds politely.
And then there’s Dan Seals who stood on principle, real hard-won talent and a mysterious faith we might never understand, even after pressing into his wounds. Undeterred, Dan Seals died as he lived; principled.
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Dan Seals had the character that legends are made from! He recorded songs that were art and proved they could be commercial. Country music is the common man’s art, he can’t afford a Piccaso nor would be prefer one, but to the common man Dan Seals was one of the few true Piccaso’s in song!
If you knew Dan, you would not be surprised by this story!