Seal (originally, Samuel, Sealhenry)

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Seal (originally, Samuel, Sealhenry)

Seal (originally, Samuel, Sealhenry) , singer who blends pop, rock, soul, dance and alternative into something uniquely his own; b. Paddington, England, Feb. 19, 1963. The child of a Brazilian father and a Nigerian mother, his early childhood was marked by his mother’s forced expulsion from England, leaving him to live with an abusive father, and his own bout with the disease lupus, which left the tell-tale scars on his face. He left home at 15.

During the mid-to-late 1980s, Seal spent several years on public assistance, augmenting this by passing out handbills. He befriended club music producer Adamsky, who used him as the singer on the house music tune “Killer” in 1990. The song topped the charts. This landed him a deal with ZZT Records. He went into the studio with producer Trevor Horn (formerly of the Buggies) and musicians including Wendy and Lisa, former members of Prince’s New Power Revolution, to cut his eponymous 1991 debut. In addition to “Killer,” the album contained the hit “Crazy” which became an international hit, rising to #7 in the U.S. The album went platinum and rose to #24.

Seal moved to the U.S. A bout with double pneumonia followed by a severe car accident which in turn was followed by a bout of post-viral fatigue kept the artist sidelined for a couple of years. He finally re-emerged with his eponymous sophomore effort in 1994. Once again produced by Horn and featuring Wendy and Lisa, the album also had guest appearances by Jeff Beck and Joni Mitchell. The single “Prayer for the Dying,” a melancholy ballad, rose to #21. The song “Kiss from a Rose,” one of the closest things pop music has seen to a madrigal since “Scarborough Fair,” was featured on the soundtrack of the film Batman Forever, topped the pop charts, and spent 12 weeks atop the adult contemporary charts. It took home three Grammy awards: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The album went to #20 and quadruple platinum.

Seal’s 1998 album Human Being featured musicians ranging from synthesizer wiz William Orbit to former E Street Band keyboard player David Sancious. While the artistry remained intact, perhaps he stayed away too long, because the album only went gold.

Discography

Seal (1991); Seal (1994); Human Being (1998).

—Hank Bordowitz