Song Sunday: Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers)

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Genius Image
Image Credit: Genius

Returning to my Samsung playlist, submitted for your approval…

“I’ll be coming home, wait for me…”

This song is older than I am. My dad liked the Righteous Brothers and their music was in my house, growing up. This is one of my favorites. It has an interesting background. Composed by Alex North in 1955 (a song he’d written in the 1930s), the lyrics were written by Hy Zaret. It was the theme to the movie Unchained, a film about a convict in a medium-security prison, wanting desperately to escape and go home to his wife. This was the movie’s “Melody.” Todd Duncan was the singer for the soundtrack.

There are over 1,500 recordings of this song, with the most notable being the Righteous Brothers’ version. Recorded by the duo in 1965 for Philles Records, Bobby Hatfield won a coin toss to sing it solo on their fifth album Just Once In My Life, according to Bill Medley. [Note: According to the Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Google Books), Just Once In My Life is listed as their fourth album. This reflects, otherwise.] Hatfield changed the song a bit during recordings. He decided to sing “I need your love…” in the final verse much higher than previous singers.

Ken Sharp: “Bobby’s vocals on Unchained Melody […] are stunning. Did he recognize his gift?”

Medley: “I don’t think he knew how good he was. I don’t think either one of us were thinking…are we good or not? I think we were just saying…thank God people enjoy what we’re doing. We admired so many other people and we certainly didn’t feel we were above anyone but, Bobby was sensational.

I happened to produce Unchained Melody. I know a lot of people think Phil (Spector) did it but, I produced and arranged it. I had the arrangement all done and, Bobby came in, sang it twice and that was it. I played piano and sang vocal background on it. [If] I knew that it was gonna be a hit, I certainly would have brought in a better piano player [laughing].”

Soul & Inspiration: A Conversation With Bill Medley Of The Righteous Brothers
Rockcellar Magazine [Web Archive]
Ken Sharp
May 6, 2014

Amazon & IMDb Image Two
Photo Credit: IMDb & Amazon

Recorded on the “B” side of the single Hung On You from the album Back To Back, radio DJs weren’t interested in it and flipped the record over. Per Medley, producer Phil Spector was so pissed off, he began calling the radio stations to make them stop playing the wrong song. Thankfully, he was unsuccessful and the song made it to #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, the week of September 4, 1965. It re-appeared in the Billboard charts in 1990 when the movie Ghost was released July 13. Two versions of the song wound up in the charts at the same time, the original 1965 version and a new recording by Hatfield. [They] became the first act to have two versions of the same song in the Top 20 at the same time.

I had no idea that Elvis Presley did his own version. The first track from the album Moody Blue, it was recorded June 21, 1977 and released in March 1978. It peaked at #6 on the US Hot Country Songs chart.

Cover Me: The Stories Behind The Greatest Cover Songs Of All Time (WorldCat Library)
The Time Of My Life: A Righteous Brother’s Memoir (Google Books)
Bobby Hatfield Memorial (Spectropop)


25 thoughts on “Song Sunday: Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers)

    UK #1s blog said:
    July 16, 2023 at 10:23 PM

    So many different versions – it’s been a number one in the UK 4 times! – but I don’t think any can beat the Righteous Bros

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      July 17, 2023 at 12:38 PM

      I stumbled across that very data while researching. I was getting ready to dig on your site for 1990 but, it got too late.

      You have extensive material on your site and I am forgetting the other three.

        UK #1s blog said:
        July 18, 2023 at 1:48 AM

        One was way back in 1955, by Jimmy Young, and then the Righteous Brothers. I haven’t covered the other two yet.

    UK #1s blog said:
    July 17, 2023 at 9:31 AM

    Strange, I could swear I commented on this earlier… Anyway, just to say there have been so many different versions of this song, but nobody does it like the Righteous Bros!

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      July 17, 2023 at 12:39 PM

      You did. I moderate comments. I have to.

        UK #1s blog said:
        July 18, 2023 at 1:48 AM

        Ah, I see. I was just scrolling and saw that your post still had no comments, and was wondering where mine had gone : )

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          July 18, 2023 at 11:23 AM

          A lot of bloggers moderate. I follow several that, when I comment, it always disappears.

          I have had too many trolls.

            UK #1s blog said:
            July 18, 2023 at 9:26 PM

            Fair enough. I moderate first-time commentors, then after that they’re let loose!

              The Hinoeuma responded:
              July 18, 2023 at 10:10 PM

              I’ve been known to post controversial material. I have no patience for the nastiness.

    Badfinger (Max) said:
    July 17, 2023 at 10:17 AM

    I can tell Phil Spector didn’t do it…listen to “You’ve Lost that…” … it sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom because of all of the echo…this one is clear and precise…it sounds so much better without the Spector touch.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      July 17, 2023 at 1:00 PM

      Spector was (is?) an ass. Calling all those stations…not wanting album tracks, just “singles.” I’ve wondered WTH Ronnie saw in him. Money & power, I guess.

      I thought about posting a Ghost video but, they were only chopped up clips. I thought about posting Elvis but, OMG. There is only a live version of him singing and he was so sick. It was recorded two months before he died.

        Badfinger (Max) said:
        July 17, 2023 at 5:03 PM

        Ronnie should have stayed with Keith Richards…they went out for a while and she went out with Lennon.
        I am one of the few who didn’t like the early Spector songs…yea I like album tracks more than singles…always have always will.

        That is why I don’t like posting top ten hits (irony…I did today lol)…I would rather pick a cool old song that people will like.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          July 17, 2023 at 1:16 PM

          I used to post #1 songs and #1 movies. The data is easy to gather. Now, I prefer “releases.” They take more work. My Song Sundays are strictly what I have on my phone.

          I am big on album tracks, too. There have been many times that I bought an album for a hit song and found that the other, unreleased pieces were better.

    Dayphoto said:
    July 17, 2023 at 10:46 AM

    Always, always a favorite

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      July 17, 2023 at 1:02 PM

      Oh, yeah…💜💜💜

    Catherine said:
    July 17, 2023 at 8:30 PM

    This song takes me back to a time when life was fun and less complicated.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      July 17, 2023 at 8:48 PM

      I can see that. I wasn’t even born, yet.

    bereavedandbeingasingleparent said:
    July 20, 2023 at 5:08 AM

    I’m thinking back to concerts I’ve seen and at least 4 different artists have played this song. Shows how good and timeless it is.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      July 20, 2023 at 11:17 AM

      I was surprised at how old it actually was.

    doerfpub said:
    July 23, 2023 at 5:42 PM

    Phil Spector, now that is a character (and not in a good way). Admittedly, didn’t grow up with the Righteous Brothers so really other than this song I’m pretty clueless on them.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      July 24, 2023 at 9:15 PM

      Yep…”wall of sound” guy and murderer. I really don’t get what Ronnie saw.

      Soul & Inspiration, you don’t remember? You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (re-made by Hall & Oates)?

        doerfpub said:
        July 24, 2023 at 10:33 PM

        Actually I know that song…maybe from Dirty Dancing, can’t remember, but I do probably know the H&O version better.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          July 25, 2023 at 12:36 AM

          Unfortunately, there was no Righteous Brothers songs in Dirty Dancing. It is set in 1963 and those two were barely a duo in that period piece.

            doerfpub said:
            August 16, 2023 at 12:12 AM

            oops, my bad, mistake it for (I’ve Had) the Time of My Life…aging, retired, injured, I have plenty of excuses ha.

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