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Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers

Album: Just Once In My LifeReleased: 1965Charted:
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1
  • This first appeared in the 1955 movie Unchained, starring the former football player Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch. The movie takes place in a prison, and the song was written for the movie to reflect the mood of the prisoners as they wait for time to pass.

    Alex North wrote the music, Hy Zaret wrote the lyrics, and a black singer named Todd Duncan sang the version in the movie. Duncan went on to become a popular vocal instructor.

    When the movie came out, an orchestral version by Les Baxter was released along with a version by Al Hibbler. Baxter's version hit #1 in the US; Hibbler's went to #3.
  • Bobby Hatfield, who had a higher voice than Bill Medley, sang lead on this track. It was his idea to record it, since Medley and Hatfield were each allowed to choose a song to sing as a solo vocalist on their albums. As Medley tells us, Hatfield knew the song well, and was a big fan of the Roy Hamilton and Al Hibbler versions of the song. In 2003, Hatfield died of a heart attack at age 63.
  • The Righteous Brothers version was a huge hit, but it was recorded with far more modest expectations. Phil Spector considered it album filler and released it as a B-side. The single had "Unchained Melody," with no producer credit on the label, as the flip to Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Hung on You," but many DJs preferred "Unchained Melody" and played that one instead. This infuriated Spector, who subsequently left no doubt as to which side of a Philles single was the A-side.
  • The famous climax of this song where Bobby Hatfield sings the high "I need your love" line wasn't how the song was written. In our interview with Bill Medley, he explained that Hatfield did two takes of the song, then left. He would often reconsider his performance and come back later to change it, and that's what he did on this track, returning to ask Medley if he could make an edit. This was no easy task, since with a maximum of four tracks to work with, you had to record over part of the original take, but Medley accommodated and Hatfield delivered that soaring vocal line. Said Medley: "I punched that in and he left. He said, 'No, I can do it better.' And I said, 'No, you can't.' [Laughs] And I think it's a big part of that song."
  • This was released on Philles Records, Phil Spector's label. Spector, known for his "Wall Of Sound" technique, did not produce this - Bill Medley did. In a 2007 statement to the Forgotten Hits newsletter, Medley said: "You have to remember that I was producing our stuff before Phil Spector... I mean I produced 'Little Latin Lupe Lu,' 'My Babe' and all that stuff. Then when we went with Phil, Phil asked me if I would produce the albums because it was too time consuming for him to produce the entire albums. So he was going to do the singles and I would do the album. And so that's how that happened and that's how I produced 'Unchained Melody,' which Phil Spector apparently now takes credit for. He can have the credit. And I'm not a producer. I know how to produce. But it's obviously not a Spector production. 'Unchained Melody' was never intended to be the single... it was produced to be on the album. It was put on the B side of a Phil Spector single 'Hung On You' and the minute it was released 'Unchained Melody' just went through the roof."
  • This returned to both the US and UK charts in 1990 after it was included in the motion picture Ghost (it was used in a scene featuring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and pottery). Two versions charted in the US that year: a reissue of the 1965 original Righteous Brothers single was available only as a 45 RPM single, peaking at #13, and a 1990 re-recording of the song was available only as a cassette single, peaking at #19. For eight weeks, both versions were in the Hot 100 simultaneously.

    When the re-release became a hit, the label that now owned the distribution rights underestimated it's popularity and the few copies that record stores had sold out quickly, with back orders that went into several weeks. Meanwhile the Righteous Brothers, who weren't making a dime off of the original any more, decided to re-record the song and release it on Curb, Bill Medley's current label. Since the charts are based on radio airplay (only the original version) and record sales (only the Curb release), both versions landed in the Top 20 at the same time. If these two figures had been added together, a song two decades old would have been the #1 song of the year. In the UK, that was exactly the case, as the song made #1 and was the biggest-selling single of 1990.
  • The song's renewed popularity in the UK resulted in the re-release of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" in late 1990. That re-release reached #3 overseas.
  • Although the Righteous Brothers' version is the most-remembered today, it was by no means the first or most-successful "Unchained Melody." Four versions of the song made the Top 40 in 1955, three of them simultaneously in the Top 20: Les Baxter (#1 - from the movie Unchained), Al Hibbler (#3 - first vocal version), Roy Hamilton (#6), June Valli (#29). All four of these recordings were in the US Top 40 on May 14, 1955. Harry Belafonte also recorded a version that year.
  • When the movie Ghost brought this song back to the charts, it marked the second time a Patrick Swayze film boosted the fortunes of Bill Medley. In 1987, Medley's duet with Jennifer Warnes, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," became a #1 US hit when the film it was written for, Dirty Dancing (also starring Swayze), took off at the box office.

    Medley told us: "I had talked to him a few times over the years - I used to joke with him. I said, 'Why aren't you calling us to do every one of your movies?'"
  • In 1995, Robson And Jerome released this as a single with "The White Cliffs Of Dover." The single went to #1 in the UK and was the best-selling single there that year. Both songs were used in a TV show called Soldier Soldier.
  • The Righteous Brothers released just two more singles on Phil Spector's Philles Records, and they were both covers of older songs: "Ebb Tide" and "The White Cliffs Of Dover." Spector didn't want to put his efforts into recording original songs if the public just wanted to hear standards from the duo.

    After these releases, MGM Records bought The Righteous Brothers' contract, which paid off for the label when their first single for the label, "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration" - an original song - went to #1.
  • The only record to be a #1 hit with four different versions, Jimmy Young, The Righteous Brothers, Ronson & Jerome, and Gareth Gates all topped the UK chart with this song. This is also the first song to be a million seller in the UK in more than one version (Robson & Jerome also had a million seller with this in 1995).
  • In 2002 Pop Idol runner up Gareth Gates scored a #1 single with this in the UK. At the age of 17 he became the youngest solo male British artist to have a UK #1. Gates' version was voted Record Of The Year by ITV viewers in 2002. It sold 300,000 copies on its first day and 1.3 million overall. Gates performed this in the final of Pop Idol, in which he finished runner up to Will Young.
  • This was one of several songs that Simon Cowell said he never wants to hear again at an X Factor audition. "Whoever said that was my favorite song was joking," he said.
  • This was Gareth Gates' mother's favorite song and Gates himself knew this from The Righteous Brothers version in the film Ghost. It was the first song that Gareth learned to play on guitar. According to 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, he knew it would be a great song to perform on Pop Idol: "It's a song you can sing very badly, lots of people mess up the 'I need your love' bit, but I knew I could do it okay." The CD single included Gareth's versions of "Anything Is Possible" and "Evergreen," which would have been the A-sides if he'd won the contest.
  • The 1990 re-release of this song went to #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, giving The Righteous Brothers their only chart-topper on that tally.
  • The Supremes recorded a cover of this song for their album I Hear a Symphony. (thanks, Jerro - New Alexandria, PA)
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Comments: 54

On July 11th 1965, "Unchained Melody" and the B-side, "Hung On You", both entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; "Unchained" at position #72 and "Hung" at #90...
"Unchained" peaked at #4 (for 2 weeks) on August 22nd, 1965 and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100 chart; while "Hung" reached #47 on August 15th, 1965 and stay on the chart for 7 weeks...
R.I.P Mr. Hatfield (1940 - 2003) and Mr. Medley will celebrate his 74th birthday in two months on September 19th, 2014.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Pete in Nowra - what did Bill Medley do, whilst Bobby was singing the lead, anybody know???
Yeah I know, He walked out of the Studio, down to the Bank and Waited.
Fred - Christchurch, New Zealand
William Stirrat was an imposter; please see the Wikipedia article about him. For more about "Unchained Melody", please see Unchained Melody Publishing LLC web site or Unchained Melody Publishing LLC Facebook page.Bob - Boston, Ma
On December 21st 1963 the New York City doo-wop group Vito and the Salutations performed "Unchained Melody" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
Two months earlier on October 20th it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #97; eventually it peaked at #66 and spent 6 weeks on the Top 100...
It was the groups only Top 100 entry...
Their version of the song was featured in the 1990 movie 'Goodfellas'.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
In the Robson and Jerome version they are indoors, it's in black and white and while the place is full at the beginning people keep leaving until only Robson and Jerome are left. In the Gareth Gates version he is on the street, it's in colour and he's by himself at the beginning but more and more people keep coming until a lot of people are surrounding him.Sioraf - Macroon, Ireland
No one has mentioned the superb George Benson version of this tune. From his collection, "Greatest Hits." Benson's version features more lyrics and heartfelt singing.Mark - Atlanta, Ga
Bobby Hatfield loved the Roy Hamilton version of this song, and was singing it in clubs before he met Bill Medley. When they started recording as the Righteous Brothers, they usually included one solo each on each of their albums. Bobby chose this song for the "Just Once in My Life" LP. Because it was never intended to be released as a single, Bill Medley produced it (Spector only produced the singles), and it was released as the intended "throwaway" B-side to the Spector-produced "Hung on You". However, radio stations flipped it over to play "Unchained Melody", which infuriated Spector. Spector attempted to convince radio stations to play "Hung on You" instead, but it ws too late--"Unchained Melody" had become an accidental smash hit. Bill Medley has since said that Bobby "just killed it," recording the song in about 30 minutes. Medley sings it in tribute to Bobby at his shows now, complete with a video slide show. It's a tearjerker.Jean - Owensboro, Ky
Be a combat photographer for one week in Vietnam taking (documenting the war ?), hang out of a helicopter taking pictures
down below (documenting the war ?) ---- then go to mail call. Then listen to AFVN Radio and Bobby Hatfield singing "Unchained Melody" and you'd see American soldiers holding their one precious piece of mail from the USA - just start
crying. Bobby "The Blonde Bomber" Hatfield "owns" that song and Bill Medley produced it. God Bless The Righteous Brothers for their music, kindness, patience signing autographs, patience getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and treating all of us fans - "Righteously." Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley - THE BEST !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Roger C., San Diego
Roger - San Diego, Ca
Great version of this song was recorded by Perry Como in 1955. Bill Medley is just being modest when he says "I wasn't a producer"..in fact Medley was a great record producer. "Soul and Inspiration" was produced by Bill Medley and sounds exactly like Phil Spector.Coy - Palestine, Tx
Thia ia one of the most HAUNTING melodies ever written...many years ago while in lockup I REALLY felt and understood the MOOD and MAGIC of this song.Joseph - Martinsville, , In
This song also gained a lot of popularity in the movie "Ghost"Drew - Chicago, Il
This song was nominated for Best Song at the 1955 Academy Awards!!! {The song that won was "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing"}Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Between 1955 to 1981 eight diffrent artist have made the Top 100 with this song; Lex Baxter, Al Hibbler, Roy Hamilton, June Valli, Vito & The Salutations, The Righteous Brothers, The Sweet Inspirations, and Heart!!!Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Also check out the emotionally draining version by the Platters. Listen to the words "touch" and "much", but its enough to wrench the tears from you when he cries " I need your love".Pok Chu - Baltimore, Md
One of my favorite songs of all time...so beautifulJessica - Tulsa, Ok
*LOL* Just took a quiz on Facebook that says this is my sex song! Not 100% sure why, but why not? :)Cyberpope - Richmond, Canada
A version of the song was recorded in the early 60s by the Rhythm Rockers that resembled the Righteous Bros versionTom - Alston, Mi
Heart did a great live cover of this!Chloe - Christchurch, New Zealand
One of the best versions of Unchained Melody is by an R&B singer from the USA, Jimmy Young.
His CD Jimmy Young Classics has songs like "Stand By Me" "Unchained Melody" "Save The Last Dance" "I Who Have Nothing" etc. etc. its a fantastic CD and Jimmy is a protege of Ben E. King.
I bought the tracks from Rhapsody online and believe me this man has one of the best soulful voices i have heard in a long time.
Holly - Toronto, On
This song has also been covered by Rockapella, Il divo (In Italian) and Amici Forever (also in Italian)Katrina - Pullman, Wa
The Original 1965 Album is: Just Once In My Life.
Don't write : the Greatest it album of The Best Of The Righteous Brothers. The right is The FIRST ALBUM!
Be serious! or no write...
Quebec_zeus - Quebec City
Anyone remember Vito & the Salutations Do-Wop version of 'Unchained Melody' from the early '60s?Lester - New York City, Ny
Hy Zaret, who wrote the lyrics of this song died july the fifth at the age of 99. This beautiful song has been covered several times but the best version is the one from the Righteous Brothers, produced by Phil Spector, the greatest producer all times.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
i love elvises version better which he recorded on June 21, 1977 just 6 weeks before he died

while doing elvis in concerct this would be the last song he ever sang on stage maybe even the last song he sang ever
Brandon - Sterling, Va
great song. compare it to a long distance relationship.Coty - Springfield, Oh
check out johnny maestro's version. BreathtakingRay - Palm Bay, Id
bobby hatfield version is my favorite, i havent heard most of the other types, stirrat wrote the song when he was 16 years oldBeach - Brooklyn, Ny
There is also a version from The Teddy Bears on their cd "Greatest Hits", completely different than the version of the Righteous Brothers, but I love it very much. The lady has a beautiful voice and it's Phil Spector who has produced it (normal, he was a member of the group).Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
I also happened to come across a Air Supply Version this valentine on some Music Channel. Can anyone list all the versions of the song on a single post. Those would surely make to my wish list.Alankar - Dombivli, India
I think Bill Medley must have stood back in awe as Bobby was singing this during it's recording.Steve - Fenton, Mo
U2's version is pretty decent...Leon - Waterbury, Ct
wow what an amazing song...hatfield's voice is incredible, especially during the last minute or soJon - Wayne, Pa
was recorded also by cindy lauper released in the album At last (2003)Ana - Lokev, Europe
Doogen notes that Elvis recorded the song. This is true, as the Farmingdale newspaper interview mentioned above states that Elvis' version was Hy's favorite.Hal - Passaic, Nj
About 22-24 seconds into The Righteous Brothers version, you may be able to hear some of the string section come in early (just before the first time you hear them), depending of the quality of your copy.Paul Melita - Mackay, Australia
This song got my heart broken some years ago, but I still enjoy it if I don't look back on those times.Dee - Indianapolis, In
...makes me think of wet clay for some strange reason...Wes - Springfield, Va
If you happen across the original 45 flip it over and give "Hung on You" a listen. It is an unheralded Spector gem. Cast out of the "Lovin' Feelin'" mold "Hung on You" builds to an awe inspiring call and response crescendo that makes the last half minute of the tune truely unforgettable.Vince - Phoenix, Az
The following quote appeared in Farmington, NJ News Transcript (http://newstranscript.gmnews.com/news/2003/1203/Front_Page/047.html)
on Dec 3, 2003 ...
(and it is worth following the link if you are curious about the origins of this song ... )

Freehold Township resident William Stirrat, 83, aka Hy Zaret (his pen name), still has a gleam in his eye when he remembers writing the lyrics. He was 16 years old and infatuated with "the prettiest girl in my neighborhood." He remembers well the frustration of being too shy to act on his feelings ' the stuttered response when she spoke to him, the frozen reaction when she smiled at him.

"Now, I think she was in love with me, too, but I was too shy to do anything or even talk to her," Stirrat says 67 years later.

It was 19 years later before the song was used in the movie "Unchained".

He wrote it when he was SIXTEEN!!!
Steve - St Louis, Mo
You have all missed the emotionally stirring version recorded by Sam Cook in the 1950's for RCA Victor. This is a bit obscure but well worth the hunt for! Very few people got to hear this version as RCA pulled the single right away and the LP was poorly promoted by the album.Ivan - Jersey City, Nj
have you ever heard a rick nelson's version? also check lonesome townDino - Athens, Greece
"Unchained melody", a very beautiful song,
specially the version of The Righteous Brothers,
produced by Phil Spector, perfect as always, a very beautiful "Wall of Sound" on the background.
Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
This song is taken from the film 'Unchained' hence the literal title: 'Unchained Melody'. It's about a young man who sits in his jail cell wondering if his love back home will wait for him..."time can do so much, are you still mine?"Lis - London, England
This song is beautiful. I cry every time I hear it.Derek - Carmel, In
The U2 and LeAnn Rimes versions scare me, but the Clay Aiken rendition will haunt you with nightmares forever. Some songs you just can't cover.Josh - Pittsburgh, Pa
Eh, this song just makes me want to watch Top Gun..hehehe. Oh, and how come this site doesn't really go into the meaning of the song?Chris - Lake Mary, Fl
An outstanding version of this was recorded by George Benson and also a huge hit version in the UK in 1955 was by Jimmy Young[now Sir Jimmy].Lee - London , England
Great song! : ) Has been sang by Justin Guarini and Clay Aiken, on American Idol.Brianne - Nova Scotia, Canada
More recently, Gareth Gates and Robson & Jerome have both butchered this song, with versions reviled by fans and critics alike, even though both versions also made No.1 in the UK.Dave - Cardiff, Wales
If I hear this one more time. Shoot Me!Conrad - Los Angeles, Ca
what did Bill Medley do ,whislt Bobby was singing the lead, anybody know??? dooo woppss???Pete - Nowra, Australia
used alot for weddings, great love songPete - Nowra, Australia
Don't forget that Elvis also recorded this song.Doogen - Evansville, In
There is also a U2 version, one by Leann Rimes, one by Neil Diamond and one Willie NelsonKeith - Sydney, Australia