The Story Behind The Song: “Seven Spanish Angels”

Seals and Setser sent the finished demo to Willie who liked it, but he wanted to wait until a future date to record it. They also sent another copy of the demo over to Billy Sherrill at Columbia, who was producing the “Friendship” album with Ray Charles. Sherrill envisioned “Seven Spanish Angels” as a duet for Charles and Ronnie Milsap, which would have been contractually problematical since Milsap recorded for RCA. But it didn’t come to that, because Ronnie didn’t want to do it anyway.

In the meantime, Sherrill found out that Willie liked “Seven Spanish Angels” and asked him to record it with Charles. Ray cut the basic tracks in Nashville. Columbia sent the tape to Nelson’s studio in Austin, Texas to add Willie’s vocal, then it was sent back to Nashville where Sherrill added the strings and background voices. He also made a major deletion that clouded the song’s storyline. Billy thought “Seven Spanish Angels” was just too complicated as written. He also determined that the excessive length was too much for radio to handle, as the song contained a melody with the first two verses telling the basic story at the beginning of the piece, then some sort of refrain in the middle, and an entirely different melody at the end, explaining it all.

Sherrill called Troy and said, “Hey man, this is like a book, not a song. It’s like you gotta sit down and take notes.” Billy convinced Seals to let him fix it. Sherrill ended up wiping out the last part which explained everything, leaving the listeners in the dark about what it meant, but giving them the option of filling it all in for themselves. Billy thought these simplifications contributed to the beauty of “Seven Spanish Angels,” and to its chart-topping success.

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