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One of the most beloved songs in American pop music is the 1955 song “Unchained Melody.” Originally theme song to an almost unknown motion picture called “Unchained,” has been performed and recorded by singers from every decade since.
Perhaps the most well known recording was by the popular vocal duo, The Righteous Brothers in 1965. We did some digging and found a wonderful performance by Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. You are going to fall in love when you hear their voices soar when you watch this classic video.
“Unchained Melody” was written by Alex North with lyrics penned by Hy Zaret in 10955 for the film “Unchained.” The movie may not have been a huge blockbuster, but the song was an instant classic.
In 1955 alone, it was a US Billboard top ten hit for three different singers, and four versions appeared simultaneously in the UK top twenty, a record that has never been beaten. Liberace, Jimmie Young, Al Hibbler, Roy Hamilton and Les Baxter were the artists who scored those first hits with the song.
In fact, the song has been recorded more than 1500 times by more than six hundred and fifty different artists.
Which brings us to The Righteous Brothers, whose version may be considered the definitive take on this tune. Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley each agreed to do one solo song on their fourth album for Phil Spector’s Philles Records. The harder agreement was which one would get to sing “Unchained Melody.” Both singers wanted to claim it for their own, so they did what any grown men would do to settle a debate: they tossed a coin. Bobby Hatfield won the toss, and he went straight to number four on the Billboard charts with it.
Bill Medley, in addition to being one half of the group, also produced much of their recording sessions. However, legendary producer and raving lunatic Phil Spector would take the credit for this one, so it is still a matter of discussion on who the real man behind the board was for this track.
The funniest part about Hatfield’s recording is that it was actually meant to be the b-side to the official single “Hung On You.” Spector had a habit of deliberately placing a throw away track on the flip side of a single to ensure that radio programmers and DJ’s would not confuse the two, and clearly he thought so little of Hatfield’s take that it made the b-side.
Much to his initial chagrin, but later fortune, DJ’s at radio stations across the country all but ignored “Hung On You” and turned The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” into a timeless classic and the benchmark by which all other versions are measured.
Shortly after their success with “Unchained Melody,” The Righteous Brothers broke with Spector and in 1966 signed with Verve records. They continued to have success in their post-Philles period, scoring such hits as “Soul and Inspiration” and “Go Ahead And Cry.”
The Righteous Brothers’ recording of “Unchained Melody” has never really lost its power. In 1990 it was featured in the soundtrack to the Demi Moore/ Patrick Swayze film “Ghost,” and has been consistently named one of the best songs of the twentieth century and of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era.
What is your favorite memory of this classic song? Please share your thoughts and stories with us here.
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