The Righteous Brothers

  • Singing duo and songwriters Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, formed in 1962, from Orange County California. Hatfield died in 2003 of a heart attack caused by an overdose of cocaine.
  • Before Medley and Hatfield met, they were in different groups – Medley performed with The Paramours, and Hatfield was with The Variations. A mutual friend suggested that they watch each other perform. When there was an opening in The Paramours, Medley invited Hatfield to join. The group was signed to a small record label, and The Paramours recorded a single in 1962 – There She Goes (She’s Walking Away), which was not successful. By the next year, The Paramours broke up, and Medley and Hatfield remained to form a duo. They adopted the name The Righteous Brothers because when they performed for some black Marines at a Marine base, one of the audience members shouted “That was righteous, brothers!”
  • They released 3 albums with the independent label from 1963 to 1965, with a couple of songs sneaking into the Hot 100 – Little Latin Lupe Lu made it to #49. In August and September of 1964, they opened for west coast performances of the Beatles’ first tour, and later that year, they opened for The Rolling Stones on their tour.
  • Music producer Phil Spector heard them perform and was impressed, signing them to his own label. Previously, the label had only featured black singers – The Righteous Brothers had a black vocal style, and their “blue-eyed soul” sound worked. Their first single with Spector would change their lives – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling was released in 1964, hitting #1 in the U.S. and UK. According to BMI, it is the most played song on radio and television during the 20th century.
  • Spector’s label released 3 albums in 1965. These produced 3 more top 10 songs – Just Once In My Life (#9), Unchained Melody (#4), and Ebb Tide (#5). Their version of Unchained Melody became the standard (the song, written in 1955 by Alex North and Hy Zaret, has been recorded by more than 670 artists).
  • In 1966 they moved to another label, under protest from Spector (who settled his lawsuit with the new label for $600,000). Five albums were released from 1966 to 1968. They topped the chart for a second time with the song (You’re My) Soul and Inspiration, and reached #18 with He. 
  • Their popularity started to decline, and they split in February 1968. Hatfield teamed with another singer in 1969 and released an album that went nowhere. They both did some solo work, having no success. In 1974, they reunited, appearing on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Soon, an album was released, and 3 singles reached the top 40, with their final surprise hit, Rock and Roll Heaven, peaking at #3. The song pays homage to several rock and roll singers who had died, assuming that they were jamming in heaven. Artists covered in the song are Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Jim Morrison, Jim Croce and Bobby Darin.
  • They stopped performing in 1976, when Medley’s wife died. In 1981, they reunited to sing Rock and Roll Heaven on American Bandstand, adding lyrics to include Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Keith Moon. They resumed touring occasionally, riding a nostalgia wave for their music. In 1990, Unchained Melody was featured in the film Ghost, creating a new clamor for the song. The original version was re-released, along with a newly recorded version – The Righteous Brothers are the first artist to have 2 versions of the same song in the top 20 at the same time.
  • After Hatfield’s death in 2003, Medley continued to perform as a solo artist, and he had a #1 hit with his 1987 duet with Jennifer Warnes, (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life. The song was on the soundtrack of the film Dirty Dancing, and it won a Grammy award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. In 2016, he revived The Righteous Brothers, using singer Bucky Heard in place of his late partner. They performed over 40 shows in Las Vegas in 2016, and an album was released with Medley and Heard singing new versions of classic Righteous Brothers songs. They continue to perform a limited number of shows today.
  • The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Here is a performance by the blue-eyed soul boys of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.