For nearly three decades, the Righteous Brothers have defined the essence of "blue-eyed soul". Together and as solo artists, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield have reached generations of fans with their unmistakable, heartfelt vocal style. From their 1965 chart-topping success with "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" to 1990's surprise rediscovery of "Unchained Melody", the Righteous Brothers have endured and thrived as legendary talents.
explains the duo's evergreen appeal? Perhaps it's the raw emotion which
Medley and Hatfield convey as singers. There's
the knack they've had for choosing timeless, immaculately crafted songs
to record. Whatever the reason, the Righteous
are currently at renewed heights of popularity, reaching legions of new
admirers over the airwaves and in concert.
Reunion, their latest Curb Records release, brings the Brothers together again for an album of all newly recorded songs. Such classics as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," (You're My) Soul And Inspiration," "Ebb Tide" and an updated rendition of "Rock And Roll Heaven" are included in this impressive collection. We wanted to re-do these songs and bring the studio recording quality up to '90s standards," says Medley. "Because Unchained Melody' kicked up such a storm, we thought this was the perfect time to do it. From my standpoint, this is probably the best album that the Righteous Brothers have ever released."
appears in the wake of the Righteous Brothers' surprise comeback as Top
40 hitmakers. "Unchained Melody,"
featured in the film Ghost, became a platinum single in early '91 when the duo's newly recorded version sold over one million copies. The song also earned them a Grammy nomination in the category of "Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group with Vocal." The re-recorded "Unchained Melody" was included on Unchained Melody -- The Best Of The Righteous Brothers (released October '90), as well as on Reunion.
The return of "Unchained Melody" to the charts some 25 years after the Righteous Brothers first recorded the song is nothing short of amazing -- yet, if any pair of singers could pull off such a coup, it's this duo. The stirring, achingly romantic power of their music has truly stood the test of time. Medley and Hatfield first became "brothers" after both were performing on their own around their home turf in the Los Angeles suburb of Orange County. They sang together one night, and the audience response convinced them to stay together. They quickly developed a stage act which featured the urgent back-and-forth vocal exchanges that went on to become their trademark. Medley's soulful, rich timbre was the perfect compliment for the higher-pitched, gospel-tinged range of Hatfield.
The duo first recorded for the small Moonglow label, releasing a series of singles (including their first hit, Little Latin Lupe Lull) and their debut album Right Now. But their real rise to prominence began when they started working with producer Phil Spector. 1965 saw the release of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," which matched the Righteous Brothers' passionate singing with Spector's famed "Wall of Sound" to monumental effect. The song topped the charts and led to further hits, including "Just Once In My Life," "Unchained Melody" and "Ebb Tided."
Switching labels to Verve, the duo enjoyed further chart success with the million-selling "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration," as well as "He Will Break Your Heart" and "Ago Ahead And Cry." Then, in 1968, Medley and Hatfield parted company and embarked on solo careers. Medley had several hit singles, including "Brown-Eyed Woman."
Medley and Hatfield joined forces again in 1974 and scored another hit with "Rock And Roll Heaven." This reunion proved to be short-lived, however, and the duo split up once more. Yet the Righteous Brothers' legacy proved too vital to leave to the pop history books. The appearance of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" on the soundtrack to the film Top Gun was but one sign of the Brothers' long-lasting appeal.
The duo continued to perform together on a semi-regular basis through the '80s, most notably on a 20th Anniversary reunion tour in '82. Medley and Hatfield also launched The Hop, an Orange Country nightclub featuring performers of the '50s and '60s. As a solo artist, Medley has achieved much success, making his biggest breakthrough with his 1987 Number One single "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life," a duet with Jennifer Warnes from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack album.
"Unchained Melody" became one of 1990's biggest hits after its inclusion
in Ghost, no one was more surprised than Medley
and Hatfield. "I feel that the popularity of the song is just a miracle,
"Hatfield told the Chicago Sun-Times in an
interview last year. "I've always loved it, but never expected the public's reaction to it to be quite this feverish and strong."
they performed together last year, the Brothers found that "Unchained Melody,"
featuring Hatfield's lead vocal, drew
ecstatic response. Combined with the airplay that the original version of the song was receiving, it seemed the perfect time to reunite the Righteous Brothers as a recording act once again. They went into the studio together for the first time since 1974 with Medley producing. The sessions, which resulted in the tracks heard on Reunion, show that Medley and Hatfield's powers as singers remain unique and undimmed.
The 1990s have seen a new generation of fans discover the magic of the Righteous Brothers. "Considering how long we've been in the business, this is a real treat," says Medley. It's a wonderful thing to have happen." With "Unchained Melody" spurring them on, the masters of blue-eyed soul have still more musical history to make in the years to come.