The Righteous Brothers

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The Righteous Brothers
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
Labels Moonglow
Philles Records
Haven Records
Rhino (for reissues only)
Associated acts Barry Mann
Cynthia Weil
Phil Spector
Past members Bobby Hatfield
Bill Medley

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 deep baritone, 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. Other notable hits include "Ebb Tide", "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 1982. 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 others would greet them with "Hey righteous brothers, how you doin'?" on meeting them.[6][7]

The Righteous Brothers released two albums and had two moderate hits: "Little Latin Lupe Lu" and "My Babe" under the Moonglow label. In August and September 1964, they also opened for The Beatles in their first U.S. Tour,[8] but left before the tour finished as they were asked to appear on a new televsision show called Shindig!.[9] They returned to Los Angeles to tape the pilot for the show, and would later appear in the show regularly.[10]

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.[10] Spector was impressed enough to arrange a deal with Moonglow in early October 1964 to allow Spector to record and release songs by The Righteous Brothers in the US, and, Canada and UK under his own label Philles Records.[11][12] Prior to this, all the songs Spector produced featured black singers; The Righteous Brothers would be his first white act, but they had a black vocal style, termed blue-eyed soul, that suited Spector.[13] Spector commissioned Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to write a song for them, which turned out to be "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'".[10][14] The song, released in late 1964, became their first major hit single and reached No. 1 in February 1965.[15] 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.[16]

The Righteous Brothers had several other Spector-produced hit singles in 1965, including "Just Once in My Life" and "Unchained Melody" (originally the B-side of "Hung on You"),[17] both reaching the Billboard Top 10. Medley has consistently said that he produced "Unchained Melody", intended only as an album track, but later copies of the original 45 release credited Spector as producer. 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.[18] The last single released that they recorded with Philles Records was "The White Cliffs of Dover".[18] Although Spector focused his attention in producing singles, a number of albums by The Righteous Brothers released with Philles Records sold well.[19] In 1965, they also 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).[20]

1966-1967: Verve Records[edit]

The duo's relationship with Spector however ended acrimoniously. In 1966 they signed with Verve/MGM Records, leading to a lawsuit from Spector, which MGM settled with a $600,000 payment to Spector.[21] Their next release in 1966, "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" was a Phil Spector sound-alike song, produced by Bill Medley, who was able to fully simulate the Spector style of production. It was written by Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann who had co-written "Lovin' Feelin'" with Spector. Medley used arranger/conductor Bill Baker to provide a similar sound to Jack Nitzsche's arrangement of "Feelin'". It quickly became their second No. 1 U.S. hit, staying on the top for three weeks, but the song failed to reach the Top 10 in the UK.[22] 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.

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.

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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25][26] 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.[27]

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.[28] In 1974, Medley and Hatfield announced their reunion at an appearance on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.[19] 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, the duo 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".[19][29] They resumed touring intermittently, including a 21st Anniversary Celebration concert in 1983 at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles which was taped and later released on video as well as aired on television.[30] 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". 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.[29] The re-recorded "Unchained Melody" hit No. 19 on the Hot 100 and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[31] 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".[32] The album sold very well and received a double Platinum certification from the RIAA.[33] A greatest hits CD collection of the original recordings called The Very Best of The Righteous Brothers...Unchained Melody[34] was reissued later by Verve/Polydor. This compilation album also became their first entry in the UK album chart.[35]

The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2003.[36] Bill Medley continues to perform as a solo artist after the death of Bobby Hatfield in 2003.

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.[37] According to the autopsy report, the cause of his death was attributed to cocaine leading to heart failure.[38]


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


  • Right Now! (1963) Moonglow Records[39]
  • Some Blue-Eyed Soul (1964) Moonglow[40]
  • You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (1965) Philles Records [41]
  • Back to Back (1965) Philles Records[42]
  • Soul & Inspiration (1966) Verve Records[43]
  • Go Ahead and Cry (1966) Verve Records[44]
  • Sayin' Somethin' (1967) Verve Records[45]
  • Souled Out (1967) Verve Records[46]
  • One for the Road (1968) Verve Records[47]
  • Re-Birth (1969) Verve Records[48]
  • Give It to the People (1974) Haven Records[49]
  • Sons of Mrs Righteous (1975) Haven Records[50]

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

The Righteous Brothers Greatest Hits[55]
  • Released: November 30, 1967
  • Label: Verve Records
  • Formats: Vinyl
The Anthology 1962 - 1974[57]
  • Released: July 26, 1989
  • Label: Rhino Records
  • Formats: Vinyl, cassette, CD, digital download
Unchained Melody - Best Of The Righteous Brothers[59]
  • Released: October 2, 1990
  • Label: Curb Records
  • Formats: Cassette, CD, digital download
161 1
  • Can: Platinum[60]
  • US: 2× Platinum[33]
The Very Best Of Righteous Brothers[61]
  • 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


Year Title Chart positions
US[64] UK[22]
1963 "Little Latin Lupe Lu" 49
"My Babe" 75[a]
1964 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" 1 1
1965 "Bring Your Love to Me" /
"Fannie Mae"

"Just Once in My Life" 9
"You Can Have Her" 67[b]
"Justine" 85[b]
"Unchained Melody" /
"Hung on You"
"Ebb Tide" 5 48
1966 "Georgia On My Mind" 62[b]
"(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" (RIAA: Gold) 1 15
"He" /
"He Will Break Your Heart" (a.k.a. "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)")

"Go Ahead and Cry" 30
"On This Side of Goodbye" 47
"The White Cliffs Of Dover" 21
"Island In The Sun"[22] 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
"Give It to the People" 20
"Dream On" 32
1977 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (re-issue) 42
1988 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (re-issue) 87
1990 "Unchained Melody" (re-issue) 13[c] 1
"Unchained Melody" (new 1990 recording for Curb Records) (RIAA: Platinum) 19
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" /
"Ebb Tide" (re-issue)
  • 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.


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External links[edit]