(Seal Henry Olumide Samuel)
- Born: 19-02-1963
- Birth Place: Nigeria
With international hits like ‘Crazy’ and ‘Kiss From A Rose’, a beautiful wife in Heidi Klum, three lovely children, and an active music career, many would agree that Seal has it made. However, it wasn’t smooth sailing all the way, as his story is a true tale of gutter to glitter.
Seal Henry Olumide Samuel was born in Nigeria, but his Nigerian mother and Brazilian father relocated to England when he was an infant, and he was brought up by a guardian in Paddington, London, as his parents divorced soon after moving there.
After four years, he was reunited with his family, and spent the rest of his childhood in Kilburn, north London. A bout of discoid lupus (an autoimmune disease) left the distinctive facial scars that lend character, rather than disfigure, to his lean 6'4" frame. After earning a degree in architecture, Seal worked a variety of jobs, including putting up advertisements for prostitutes and callgirls in London's famous red telephone boxes. He was arrested for his troubles.
In the mid-eighties, he joined an English funk band called Push that was going out on tour in Japan. While this wasn't an important development in his fledgling musical career, it was to give him a wider outlook on life, a world experience that was to influence his idealistic first album. After Japan, he made his way to Thailand, singing in a blues band, before leaving for India on his own. He "had a few spiritual experiences", which would again inform the themes of his first album.
Seal's breakthrough came when he collaborated with acid house (a form of dance music) producer Adamski on the song 'Killer' in 1990. The mix of rock and dance together with Seal's soulful singing took 'Killer' to No. 1 in the UK charts.
More importantly, it brought him to the attention of record label ZTT and veteran producer Trevor Horn, whose credentials included the massively influential prog-rock band Yes and Liverpudlian band Frankie Goes To Hollywood - although he recalls that he could have had the pick of the record companies who were chasing him after the success of 'Killer'.
Under Horn's expert guidance, Seal recorded his first album, 'Seal' (1991), which saw his background in soul, dance and house music complemented and fleshed out with Horn's melodic and instrumental sensibilities. The result was an album that produced the hit singles 'Crazy' and a new version of 'Killer'. His lyrics, young and idealistic, reflected his experiences of living in Asia: in his own words, subscribing to an "if we only stick together we can save the world" type anthem. The album sold millions world wide, and the boy from Nigeria had finally arrived.
The success took its toll on the quiet, softly spoken singer. He was overwhelmed by the fame and suffered from panic attacks. He was aware of his new-found status, and wary of sycophants, hangers-on and dishonest people. He said "If you're a sensitive person, like myself, you quickly realise that not everybody's intentions are genuine. And, yes, you have more people around you, lots more people around you, but your space becomes much smaller."
The fortune changed him as a person too: "Five years ago I would get annoyed when my dole cheque arrived a day late. The next thing I know, I'm getting pissed off if my limo didn't turn up." However, he credits his friends for slowly bringing him back to earth and grounding his personality.
Meanwhile, 'Seal' swept three awards at the 1992 Brit Awards and the singer performed at the Grammys. At the ceremony he was reportedly star struck when told that Madonna wished to meet him. An interview given during the same event where he gushed about Joni Mitchell's influence on him led to Seal receiving a note of appreciation from Mitchell two months later.
He rubbed shoulders with English blues guitar legend Jeff Beck when they collaborated on the Hendrix song 'Manic Depression' for the Jimi Hendrix tribute album, 'Stone Free' (1993).
For his follow-up album, Seal wanted changes. He shed his trademark dreadlocks to shave his head completely and selected a new producer, Steve Lillywhite, who had previously worked with U2. However, Horn was brought back after Seal realised that Lillywhite was not right for him.
The result was his second album, confusingly called 'Seal' (1994) as well. It was a less upbeat, a more reflective Seal that sang 'Prayer For The Dying', the album's lead single and Top Ten hit. Jeff Beck played guitar on 'Bring It On', and Joni Mitchell contributed guest vocals to 'If I Could'.
But at the bottom of it all were Seal's husky, soulful and chillingly intimate vocals. These were born of some near-death experiences that he had gone through, including double pneumonia and a high-speed car crash.
But Seal's biggest hit from 'Seal' (1994) was 'Kiss From a Rose', which received instantaneous and continuous airplay after it was featured on the Joel Schumacher blockbuster 'Batman Forever' (1995) soundtrack. Doomed to be massacred nightly in karaoke parlours worldwide by drunken businessmen till the day of Armageddon, 'Kiss From A Rose' was impossibly tuneful, but with the dark and haunting undertones that had caused Schumacher to select it for the Batman soundtrack.
The video, directed by Schumacher and which featured Seal singing from Gotham City rooftops cut with clips from the movie, gave the song rotation on MTV, raising Seal's profile even further.
1998's 'Human Being' failed to reach the heights of its predecessors, and Seal was undergoing some personal problems as well, falling out with Horn and ZTT. The album, and especially the song 'Human Beings' was a tribute to slain rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. 'Lost My Faith' from the album was featured on the 'Entrapment' (1999) movie soundtrack, with a music video that saw scenes from the movie (Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones) cut with Seal singing.
With a switch to Warner Bros, 2001 was supposed to be the year of redemption: Seal's new album 'Togetherland' was slated for release, however this did not happen. It was officially put out that Seal and Warner Bros were unhappy with the final mix, and decided to place the album "in the vault".
In 2003, Seal released his fourth studio album, imaginatively titled… 'Seal' (2003). It enjoyed some success in the charts and sales in the US and other parts of Europe, but was, according to Seal himself, underpromoted by Warner Bros in the UK, resulting in a lacklustre response in his home country.
In 2004, he released a compilation CD 'Seal: Best 1991-2004'. The shows he performed in Paris that year were recorded and released in a DVD the following year called 'Live in Paris'. A CD/DVD combo of a special live concert he did in Dusseldorf, Germany was released in 2006, called 'One Night To Remember'.
A German/English version of Brahms' 'Lullaby' and a cover of Neil Young's 'Don't Let It Bring You Down' are among the highlights of the live performance.
2004 also saw Seal propose to supermodel Heidi Klum in an igloo in British Columbia, Canada. The two were wed on a beach in Mexico in early 2005. In September 2005, their first son was born, Henry Gunther Ademola Dashtu Samuel, and in November 2006, their second, Johan Riley Fyodor Taiwo Samuel, was born.
Klum had a daughter, Leni Klum, with Italian businessman and director of the Renault Formula One team Flavio Briatore, but Helene considers Seal to be her father.
After the jinks of being a husband and father, Seal returned to making music, and the product was 'System' (2007), a more dance-oriented offering that saw him return to his roots in house music. Klum did a duet with him on the song 'Wedding Day' (which he wrote on the day of their wedding), and the album's lead single 'Amazing' earned a Grammy nomination in 2007.
His eighth studio album 'Soul', released in late 2008, features 11 soul classics (including numbers by Al Green and James Brown), seeing a move back towards his crooning best.
The couple's third child Lou Sulola Samuel was born on 9 October 2009 and Heidi took Seal's last name Samuel in November that year.
Seal released a compilation album called 'Hits' in December 2009 and it featured new songs 'I Am Your Man' and 'Thank You'.
On 20 September 2010, Seal released his seventh studio album 'Commitment' internationally - a record said to be inspired by his wife Heidi. He released lead single 'Secret' on 13 September 2010. Seal then released his second album featuring covers of soul classics – 'Soul 2' on 7 November 2011.
The start of 2012 was a bad year for Seal as he and Heidi confirmed they had separated on 23 January after nearly seven years together. The pair famously renewed their wedding vows on every anniversary and made sure they had similar costumes for Halloween.
In a statement, the couple said: "While we have enjoyed seven very loving, loyal and happy years of marriage, after much soul-searching we have decided to separate.
"We have had the deepest respect for one another throughout our relationship and continue to love each other very much, but we have grown apart."
Since then, both Seal and Heidi have been seen wearing their wedding rings, with the singer telling Piers Morgan that he still loves the supermodel.