The Righteous Brothers

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The Righteous Brothers
TheRighteousBrothersperformingKBF.jpg
The Righteous Brothers performing at Knott's Berry Farm
Bobby Hatfield (left) and Bill Medley (right)
Background information
Origin Orange County, California
Genres Pop, blue-eyed soul
Years active 1962–71, 1974–76, 1981–2003, 2016-
Labels Moonglow
Philles Records
Verve
Haven Records
Rhino (for reissues only)
Curb
Associated acts Barry Mann
Cynthia Weil
Phil Spector
Members Bill Medley
Bucky Heard (2016-)
Past members Bobby Hatfield
Jimmy Walker (1968-1971)

The Righteous Brothers were the musical duo of Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley. They began performing together in 1962 in the Los Angeles area as part of a five-member group called The Paramours,[1] but adopted the name The Righteous Brothers when they embarked on their recording career as a duo. They recorded from 1963 through 1975 and continued to perform until Hatfield's death in 2003. Their emotive vocal style is sometimes dubbed "blue-eyed soul".[2]

Hatfield and Medley have contrasting vocal range that helped them create a distinctive sound as a duet, but also strong vocal talent individually that allowed them to perform as soloists. Medley sang the low parts with his bass-baritone voice, with Hatfield taking the higher register vocals with his countertenor voice.

They had their first hit with "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", produced by Phil Spector and often considered one of his finest works. Other notable hits include "Ebb Tide", "Soul and Inspiration", "Rock and Roll Heaven", and in particular, "Unchained Melody". Both Hatfield and Medley also had for a time their own solo careers.

Music career[edit]

1962-1964: Beginning[edit]

Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley were in different groups before they met - Hatfield was in a group from Anaheim called the Variations, and Medley in a group from Santa Ana called the Paramours.[3] A member of Medley's band who was also in Hatfield's group suggested that they go see each other's show. Later a mutual friend Johnny Wimber (a founder of the Vineyard Movement) brought Hatfield and Medley together to form a new Paramours in 1962.[4] They started performing at a club called John's Black Derby in Santa Ana,[3] and were signed to with a small record label Moonglow in 1962. They released a single "There She Goes (She's Walking Away)" in December 1962. However, the Paramours did not have much success and soon broke up, leaving Hatfield and Medley to perform as a duo in 1963.[5] According to Medley, they then adopted the name The Righteous Brothers for the duo because black marines from the El Toro Marine base started calling them "righteous brothers".[6] At the end of a performance, a black U.S. Marine in the audience would shout, "That was righteous, brothers!", and would greet them with "Hey righteous brothers, how you doin'?" on meeting them.[6][7]

The Righteous Brothers released three albums under the Moonglow label,[8] one of these and a further compilation album were released after they had joined Phil Spector. They released 12 singles with Moonglow, but only two were moderate hits - "Little Latin Lupe Lu" and "My Babe" from their first album Right Now!.[9] In August and September 1964, they also opened for The Beatles in their first U.S. Tour,[10] but left before the tour finished as they were then little unknown on the East Coast,[11] and they were also asked to appear on a new televsision show called Shindig!.[12][13] They returned to Los Angeles to tape the pilot for the show, and would later appear in the show regularly.[14] In October and November 1964, they opened for The Rolling Stones in their American tour.[15]

1964-1965: The Spector years[edit]

In 1964, music producer Phil Spector came across The Righteous Brothers when they performed in a show in Cow Palace in San Francisco where one of Spector's acts The Ronnettes was also appearing.[14] Spector was impressed enough to arrange a deal with Moonglow in early October 1964, which allowed Spector to record and release songs by The Righteous Brothers in the US, and, Canada and UK under his own label Philles Records.[16][17] Prior to this, all the songs Spector produced for Philles Records featured black singers; The Righteous Brothers would be his first white vocal group for the label, but they had a black vocal style, termed blue-eyed soul, that suited Spector.[18] Spector commissioned Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to write a song for them, which turned out to be "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'".[14][19] The song, released in late 1964, became their first major hit single and reached No. 1 in February 1965.[20] Produced by Phil Spector, the record is often cited as one of the peak expressions of Spector's Wall of Sound production techniques. It was one of the most successful pop singles of its time, despite exceeding the then standard length for radio play. Indeed, according to BMI, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" is the most played song on American radio and television of the 20th century, with more than eight million airplays by the end of 1999.[21]

The Righteous Brothers had several other hit singles with Philles Records in 1965, including "Just Once in My Life" and "Unchained Melody" (originally the B-side of "Hung on You"),[22] both reaching the Billboard Top 10. "Unchained Melody" was produced by Medley; according to Medley, "Unchained Melody" was originally intended only as an album track, and Spector had asked him to produce the albums so Spector could spend time and money on producing singles.[23][24] Later copies of the original 45 release credited Spector as producer when it became a hit.[25] After the success of "Unchained Melody", Spector then started recording older songs with the Righteous Brothers, including "Ebb Tide" that reached Top 5. Hatfield was the only vocal on "Unchained Melody" and "Ebb Tide", and both were songs Bobby Hatfield had performed with his first group, the Variations.[26] According to Medley, both the early singles "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Just Once in My Life" featured Medley's vocal strongly which caused some friction between the duo, and the Hatfield solo in later singles restore some balance between the two.[27] The last single released that they recorded with Philles Records was "The White Cliffs of Dover".[26] Although Spector focused his attention in producing singles, a number of albums by The Righteous Brothers released with Philles Records sold well.[8] In 1965, they had a couple of guest appearances in films, A Swingin' Summer and Beach Ball. They also became the first Rock & Roll act to play the Strip in Las Vegas (at The Sands).[28][29]

1966-1967: Verve Records[edit]

The duo's relationship with Spector however ended in some acrimony;[30] in 1966 they signed with Verve/MGM Records, leading to a lawsuit from Spector, which MGM settled with a $600,000 payment to Spector.[31] Their next release in 1966, "Soul and Inspiration" was a Phil Spector sound-alike song. The song was first written by Mann and Weil after the success of "Lovin' Feelin'" but not completed, and they finished the song following a request by Medley after the Righteous Brother moved to Verve.[32] Medley then produced the completed song, and was able to fully simulate the Spector style of production and achieve a similar sound to that of "Lovin' Feelin'". It quickly became their second No. 1 U.S. hit, staying at the top for three weeks.[31]

After a few more top 40 hits, including "He" and "Go Ahead And Cry", their popularity began to decline. Even a collaboration with former Motown A&R chief William "Mickey" Stevenson failed to work. In 1967, before they went their separate ways, and to capitalize on their previous hits, Verve/MGM issued a "Greatest Hits" compilation which has been modified twice: in 1983 with 10 tracks and in 1990 with two more tracks.

1968-1975: Break up and reunion[edit]

The duo split up in February 1968, which would last for more than six years, when Medley left to pursue a solo career.[33] Medley recorded a few solo recordings on several labels, while Hatfield teamed up with singer Jimmy Walker (from The Knickerbockers) using the Righteous Brothers name on the MGM label. Medley first recorded "I Can't Make It Alone" written by Carole King, but the song failed to make much of an impact. The following single, "Brown Eyed Woman" written by Mann and Weil, performed better.[34] However, neither he nor Hatfield was able to achieve previous level of success on the chart.

Bobby Hatfield and Jimmy Walker recorded an album, Re-Birth, as The Righteous Brothers before disbanding in 1971.[35][36] In 1969, Hatfield also appeared in a TV movie, The Ballad of Andy Crocker, and also recorded "Only You". He released a solo album, Messin' In Muscle Shoals in 1971.[37] In a 2013 interview, Jimmy Walker said he believed he had improved his skills over the four years he spent in the band and wanted to continue, but that Hatfield did not want to and broke up the act.[38]

According to Medley, he was performing three shows a night in Las Vegas, but finding it too much of a strain on his voice singing solo, and under advice he sought out Hatfield to reform The Righteous Brothers.[39] In 1974, Medley and Hatfield announced their reunion at an appearance on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.[8] They signed with Haven Records, run by producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter and distributed by Capitol Records. Within a few weeks of reforming, they recorded Alan O'Day's "Rock and Roll Heaven", a paean to several deceased rock singers which became a hit, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Several more minor hits on Haven followed. After 1975, The Righteous Brothers would not appear in music charts except for re-releases of older songs and compilation albums, some of which are re-recordings of earlier works.

1976-2003: Later career and solo works[edit]

Between 1976 and 1981, Hatfield and Medley stopped performing as a duo after the death of Medley's first wife as he wanted time off to look after his son. They reunited for an anniversary special on American Bandstand in 1981 to perform an updated version of "Rock And Roll Heaven".[8][40] They resumed touring intermittently, and they recorded a 21st Anniversary Celebration concert in 1983 at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles which was later released on video and was also aired on television.[41] In the late 1970s, and Medley once again began to record as a solo artist and had some success in the 1980s. In 1984, he scored country hits with "Till Your Memory's Gone" and "I Still Do" (the latter of which was also an adult-contemporary crossover hit). In late 1987, his duet with Jennifer Warnes, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life", which appeared on the soundtrack for Dirty Dancing, topped the Billboard Hot 100. It won for Medley and Warnes a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

In 1990, the original recording of "Unchained Melody" was featured in the popular feature film Ghost starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. It triggered an avalanche of requests to Top 40 radio by fans who had seen the movie to play the 1965 Righteous Brothers' recording. This motivated Polygram (who now owned the Verve/MGM label archives) to re-release the song to Top 40 radio where it became a major hit for a second time, and reached No. 13 on the Hot 100 in 1990. It also become their second No. 1 in the UK.

The duo quickly re-recorded another version of "Unchained Melody" for Curb Records. Both the reissued and the re-recorded songs charted at the same times for several weeks, and The Righteous Brothers made history as the first act to have two versions of the same songs in the Top 20 at the same time.[40] The re-recorded "Unchained Melody" hit No. 19 on the Hot 100 and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[42] They also re-recorded others songs for a budget priced CD The Best of The Righteous Brothers released by Curb Records. Medley would later describe the re-recordings as "artistically, a stupid idea; financially, a wonderfully idea".[43] The album sold very well and received a double Platinum certification from the RIAA.[44] A greatest hits CD collection of the original recordings called The Very Best of The Righteous Brothers...Unchained Melody[45] was released later by Verve/Polydor. This compilation album also became their first entry in the UK album chart.[46] They also began to tour extensively all through the 1990s and early 2000s, and they also performed for about 12 weeks a year in Las Vegas.[47][48]

Hatfield's death[edit]

Bobby Hatfield was found dead in his hotel room in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on November 5, 2003, shortly before he was due to perform at a concert with Bill Medley at Western Michigan University's Miller Auditorium.[49] According to the autopsy report, the cause of his death was attributed to cocaine leading to heart failure.[50] Bill Medley continues to perform as a solo artist after Hatfield's death, for a time singing with a screen projection of old filmed footage of Hatfield.[51]

2016: The Righteous Brothers Reformed[edit]

In January 2016 Bill Medley announced he intended to revive The Righteous Brothers for the first time since 2003. The late Bobby Hatfield will be replaced with singer Bucky Heard for a Las Vegas residency at the Harrah’s Showroom scheduled for more than 40 shows from 23 March 2016 throughout the year till 8 November 2016.[52]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The Righteous Brothers were nominated twice for the Grammy. In 1965, their recording of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" was nominated in the Best Rock And Roll Recording category at the 7th Annual Grammy Awards.[53] Their re-recording of "Unchained Melody" was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group at the 1991 Grammy.[54][55] They were also awarded the Best New Singing Group in the Billboard Disc Jockey Poll in 1965.[56]

The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2003.[57]

Discography[edit]

For their discography as solo artists, see individual pages for Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield.

Albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
US
[58][59]
US
R&B

[58]
CAN
[60]
Right Now![61] 11 8
Some Blue-Eyed Soul[62] 14
You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' [63] 4 3
This Is New! [64] 39
Just Once In My Life...[65] 9 8
Back to Back[66] 16
Soul & Inspiration[67] 7 18
Go Ahead and Cry[69] 32
Sayin' Somethin'[70] 155
Souled Out[71] 198
One for the Road[72] 187
Re-Birth[73]
(Bobby Hatfield and Jimmy Walker)
Give It to the People[74]
  • Released:1974
  • Label: Haven Records
  • Formats: Vinyl
27 27
Sons of Mrs Righteous[75]
  • Released:1975
  • Label: Haven Records
  • Formats: Vinyl
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released to that country

Compilation albums[edit]

Many compilation albums by The Righteous Brothers have been released, the following is a selection of compilation albums that received certifications.

Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
US
[59][76]
US
Catalog

[59][77]
UK
[78]
CAN
[79]
NLD
[80]
The Righteous Brothers Greatest Hits[81]
  • Released: November 30, 1967
    (also reissued later on CD with more tracks)[82]
  • Label: Verve Records
  • Formats: Vinyl, CD
31 10 58
The Anthology 1962 - 1974[85]
  • Released: July 26, 1989
  • Label: Rhino Records
  • Formats: Vinyl, cassette, CD, digital download
178
Unchained Melody - Best Of The Righteous Brothers[87]
  • Released: October 2, 1990
  • Label: Curb Records
  • Formats: Cassette, CD, digital download
161 1
  • Can: Platinum[83]
  • US: 2× Platinum[44]
The Very Best Of Righteous Brothers[88]
  • Released: January 15, 1991
  • Label: Polydor (Verve)
  • Formats: Vinyl, Cassette, CD, digital download
14 3
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released to that country

Singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications
US
[91]
UK
[92]
CAN
[93]
NLD
[94]
1963 "Little Latin Lupe Lu" 49
"My Babe"[a] 75
1964 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" 1 1 1 8[d]
1965 "Bring Your Love to Me" /
"Fannie Mae"[b]
83
117
"Just Once in My Life" 9 6
"You Can Have Her"[b] 67 17
"Justine"[b] 85 37
"Unchained Melody" /
"Hung on You"
4
47
14
9
8
"Ebb Tide" 5 48 5
1966 "Georgia On My Mind"[b] 62
"(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" 1 15 2
"He" /
"He Will Break Your Heart" (a.k.a. "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)")
18
91

17
"Go Ahead and Cry" 30 27
"On This Side of Goodbye" 47 42
"The White Cliffs Of Dover" 21
"Island In The Sun"[92] 24
1967 "Melancholy Music Man" 43
"Stranded in the Middle of No Place" 72
1969 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (re-issue) 10
1974 "Rock and Roll Heaven" 3 4
"Give It to the People" 20 27
"Dream On" 32 41
1977 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (re-issue) 42
1988 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (re-issue) 87 13
1990 "Unchained Melody" (re-issue)[c] 13 1 4 1
"Unchained Melody" (new 1990 recording for Curb Records) 19
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" / "Ebb Tide" (re-issue) 3
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released to that country
Notes
  • note a^ "My Babe" re-charted in 1965 at No. 101 U.S.
  • note b^ "Bring Your Love To Me"/"Fannie Mae," "You Can Have Her," "Justine" and "Georgia On My Mind" were older recordings released as singles in the U.S. by the Moonglow label to cash in on the duo's success on Philles (1964–65) and Verve (1966–67), which explains their relatively low chart positions.
  • note c^ The 1990 re-issue of "Unchained Melody" also charted at No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
  • note d^ Three versions were ranked together as one in the Dutch Top 40 chart - the versions by the Righteous Brothers, Cilla Black, and a local cover by Trea Dobbs.[97]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]