RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS

The Righteous Brothers were the best known—and most commercially successful—exponents of blue-eyed soul (i.e., whites displaying black gospel/blues/R&B influences in their singing style). However, during their peak period of success, between 1963-1967, they were able to transcend stylistic categorization, appealing to teenage music consumers, an older mainstream pop audience, and blacks alike. The duo’s biggest hits—"You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’" (Philles 124; 1964; #1), "Unchained Melody" (Philles 127; 1965; #4), and "Soul and Inspiration" (Verve 10383; 1966; #1)—continue to top polls tabulating all-time favorite recordings.

Tenor Bill Medley and bass singer Bobby Hatfield—both of whom had sung in rock bands while attending high school in Southern California—met at an area club in 1962. Finding that their voices—and personalities—meshed, they decided to work together. Moonglow Records signed them to a contract shortly thereafter, releasing Righteous Brothers Right Now! (Moonglow 1001; 1964; #11), Some Blue-Eyed Soul (Moonglow 1002; 1964; #14), This Is New (Moonglow 1003; 1965; #39), and Best of the Righteous Brothers (Moonglow 1004; 1966; #130).

While with Moonglow, the duo’s work displayed a loose, funky edge highlighted by the call-and-response vocal interplay between Medley and Hatfield. One of the leading record producers of the day, Phil Spector, was sufficiently impressed to bring them over to his Philles label. The singles featuring Spector’s production work—"You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’," "Just Once In My Life" (Philles 127; 1965; #9), "Unchained Melody," and "Ebb Tide" (Philles 130; 1965; #5)—instantly elevated the Righteous Brothers to the top of the music business (even their Moonglow albums charted for the first time). Although Spector considered singles to be the most important art form, their albums—You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Philles 4007; 1965; #4), Just Once In My Life (Philles 4008; 1965; #9), and Back To Back (Philles 4009; 1965; #16)—also sold well.

Aware of Spector’s reputation for valuing the song over the artist, the Righteous Brothers signed with Verve Records. Their first hit for the label, "Soul and Inspiration’," revealed a strong Spector influence. However, later album releases—most notably, Soul & Inspiration (Verve 5001; 1966; #7), Go Ahead and Cry (Verve 5004; 1966; #32), Sayin’ Somethin’ (Verve 5010; 1967; #155), Souled Out (Verve 5031; 1967; #198), and the live One For the Road (Verve 5058; 1968; #187)—attempted to showcase the duo’s dynamic stage presence and affinity for pop standards.

Despite these efforts at creative growth, Medley felt the need to explore his options as a songwriter and solo performer. The decision to terminate the partnership was made public in early 1968, although Hatfield expressed a desire to continue the act with a new partner. When both floundered in their new career paths, they decided to get back together, allowing the official announcement to be made on a February 1974 broadcast of the "Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour." The Righteous Brothers would enjoy another major hit, "Rock and Roll Heaven" (Haven 7002; 1974; #3), but Medley retired for five years following the murder of his wife in 1976.

Medley and Hatfield have performed together intermittently over the years since appearing on an American Bandstand anniversary TV special in 1981. Medley’s top priority, however, continued to be his solo career. He signed with Planet Records in 1982, and would later have a number one hit, "(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life" (RCA 5224; 1987), a duet with Jennifer Warnes (the song also earned a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal). "Unchained Melody" returned to the charts (#13 pop, #1 adult contemporary) in 1990 as a result of its inclusion of the Ghost soundtrack. A newly recorded version of the song (Curb 76842; 1990; #19/#4 sales) achieved platinum status. The continued success of various compilations of the classic singles over the years—Anthology (1962-1974) (Rhino 71488; 1990) earned a gold record, while Best of the Righteous Brothers (Curb 77381; 1990) went platinum—have added further luster to the Righteous Brothers’ legacy.

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