It’s funny how songs can touch your life.
“We May Never Pass This Way Again,” by Seals and Crofts, and “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” by Brian Hyland seem to have little in common.
For me, though, each left an indelible mark in my memory bank.
It all came back this week with the death of Jim Seals, 80. He teamed with Dash Crofts during the 1970s on such hits as “Diamond Girl” and “Summer Breeze.”
Paul Vance’s death at 92 was also announced this week. He wrote the lyrics for “Itsy Bitsy Teenie….” and the novelty song hit No. 1 for Brian Hyland in 1960.
Hyland, who played The Villages numerous times, said the song changed his life. He was 16 and still in high school in Queens when the record came out.
Dick Clark described it on his Saturday night TV show as “the hottest or coolest record” on the charts. He added it was “the biggest thing” in pop music for the summer of 1960.
“After that record came out, anyone who had a novelty song was trying to get me to sing it,” Hyland told me. He went on to have a string of hits, including “The Joker Went Wild,” “Gypsy Woman” and “Sealed With a Kiss.”
But the “Bikini” song was the one that made it all the way to the top. “That song went to No. 1 so fast, the record company could not keep up with demand,” said Villages radio personality “DJ” Al Brady. “That tune is still recognized every summer at every beach.”
I remember as a little kid, in the back seat of my Uncle’s car, driving to the beach and hearing that goofy record on the radio. It just made the summer and the beach come alive, and still kindles that fun, warm feeling for me.
Paul Vance, who wrote the song, said he got the idea when Paula, his 9-year old daughter, wore a little homemade bikini to the beach. When a couple of little boys started teasing her, she ran off and came back with a blanket covering her.
Later that day, Vance— who also wrote lyrics for “Catch A Falling Star” “Tracy” and “Playgrounds in My Mind” went home and wrote the words. A couple of hours later, his songwriting partner, Lee Pockriss, came up with the music.
“Paul Vance wrote bubblegum pop tunes that were catchy and sellable,” Al Brady said.
Here is a video of Vance:
Jim Seals and Dash Crofts first came together with the Champs, who also had a hit novelty record with “Tequila.”
Seals and Crofts did not play on that record, but eventually toured with the Champs for years. By the late 1960s, Seals and Crofts formed a singing duo. They mixed folk, pop, rock and country music – with tight vocal harmony –in a soft, accessible sound.
After all the hard rock and psychedelic music of the ‘60s, Seals and Crofts quickly found an audience in 1972 with the smash, “Summer Breeze.” They followed that up with “Diamond Girl” and “Hummingbird.”
“They helped change the style of music in the ‘70s to a more country-lite rock that was emerging,” Al Brady said. “We went from AM pop to FM soft rock.”
He added that Seals and Crofts helped pave the way for groups like the Doobie Brothers and Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds.
One of the hits from Seals and Crofts was “We May Never Pass This Way Again.” I remember it well because that song was part of my college graduation class in the mid-1970s. Every time I hear it, the memories of that time come flooding back.
That’s how the power of music works, it brings back a time and place long past. They may be gone now, but the memories created by the music of Jim Seals and Paul Vance still linger.
Tony Violanti covers arts for Villages-News.com and is a member of the Buffalo, NY Music Hall of Fame for his music journalism.