On with yet one more Singer that Died Before his Time…
Raul Santos Seixas (June 28, 1945– August 21, 1989), was a Brazilian rock composer, singer, and songwriter. He was born in Salvador (da Bahia), Brazil, and died of a heart attack. Every year at Seixas’ birthday, legions of fans, including hundreds of impersonators (many even changing their last name to Seixas as a sign of idolatry) throw a parade as an homage to him in downtown São Paulo.
As a child living near the United States consulate in Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia he became fluent in the English language, and was introduced to early rock and roll artists like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis through his contacts with American diplomats’ children around 1956. Elvis’s music in particular was influential in young Raul’s decision to become a musician. At the age of twelve Seixas formed his first group, The Panthers, later changing their name to the Portuguese language Raulzito e os Panteras (“Little Raul and The Panthers”). They appeared on TV Salvador doing covers of Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis, a style of music which was at the time called “cowboy music” in Brazil. They were also the first group in the state of Bahia to play Beatles covers and grow their hair long, as early as 1964.
In the mid-1960s, Os Panteras, already well known as the best rock group in the region, started backing some of Brazil’s most famous pop singers of the time, such as Roberto Carlos and Jerry Adriani whenever they went to Salvador. Impressed with their talent, the stars would always advise Raul to move down south and take a chance in the thriving Jovem Guarda scene.
Following the promises of fame and fortune, the band was transplanted to Rio de Janeiro in 1967. In the following year they released their first and only album on the Odeon label (later EMI-Odeon), which included a Portuguese language version of the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds among many original numbers. Without any publicity, the record sunk and the band disbanded.
After his former bandmates moved back to Salvador, Raul made a living as an English teacher before being hired by CBS, still in 1968, as creative director and record producer. In 1971, tired of writing and producing records by bland, commercial artists, he took advantage of a label director’s vacations and produced Sociedade da Grã-Ordem Kavernista Apresenta Sessão das Dez, an avant-garde album featuring himself, singer Sergio Sampaio and samba artist Miriam Batucada. The record’s mix of Tropicalia, rock and roll and anarchic surrealistic experiments launched Raul Seixas as an icon of Brazilian counterculture.
In the 1970s, Seixas became popular in urban centers such as Rio and São Paulo. Music broadcast on TV and radio was satirical, sarcastic with esoteric themes. References to a wide range of historical and fictional personalities are found within his lyrics: Al Capone, Jesus, Julius Caesar and Shakespeare, for example. Seixas was subject to censorship during Brazil’s period of military rule. Like the music of his contemporaries such as Chico Buarque and others, Seixas’s lyrics hide political messages within double meanings.
1971 also saw the beginning of a relationship with esoteric author Paulo Coelho, who would go on to write lyrics for several of Seixas’ albums, beginning with Krig-Há-Bandolo in 1973. Through Coelho, Seixas was introduced to the work of controversial English mystic Aleister Crowley, which influenced their collaboration. The influence extended not only to music, but also to plans for the creation of the “Alternative Society,” which was to be an anarchist community in the state of Minas Gerais based on Crowley’s premise: “‘Do what thou wilt’ shall be the whole of the Law.” The project was considered subversive by members of the Brazilian military, which imprisoned all prospective members of the group. Seixas and Coelho are reported to have been tortured during their imprisonment.
Seixas was then sent into exile in the United States, where his American wife of the time was living. (Seixas was married five times.) He would later claim that during his exile he had met his childhood heroes John Lennon and Jerry Lee Lewis, although this claim has been disputed.
Perhaps as a result of his drug addiction and alcoholism, the rate and quality of Seixas’ releases slowed through the late-1970s and throughout the 1980s. In later life Seixas suffered from diabetes and pancreatitis. On 21 August 1989 Seixas died of cardiac arrest, the result of acute pancreatitis brought on by his diabetes and not having taken insulin the night before. His final album, A Panela do Diabo, a partnership with fellow Bahian rocker Marcelo Nova (former leader of punk rock band Camisa de Vênus) was released two days before his death.
One of his biggest hits, Metamaforse Ambulante (Walking Metamorphosis)