Rock And Roll Heaven

Album: Give It To The People (1974)
Charted: 3
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Songfacts®:

  • This talks about numerous music stars who died too young. First verse: "Jimi gave us rainbows" is Jimi Hendrix. "Janis took a piece of our hearts" is Janis Joplin. "Otis took us all to the dock of the bay" is Otis Redding. "Remember Jim that way" is Jim Morrison. Second verse: "Jimmy touched us with that song" is Jim Croce. "Bobby gave us 'Mack the Knife'" is Bobby Darin.
  • This song was written by John Stevenson and Alan O'Day, and first recorded by the band Climax, who are best known for their hit "Precious And Few." Stevenon was the keyboard player in Climax and wrote the song for the band, which was fronted by Sonny Geraci. Stevenson wrote the music and came up with the famous chorus:

    If you believe in forever, then life is just a one-night stand
    If there's a rock n' roll heaven, well you know they've got a hell of a band


    Alan O'Day, who also wrote the #1 Helen Reddy hit "Angie Baby" had his own #1 with "Undercover Angel," was brought in to work on the verses and made sure they fit Geraci's voice. The song went nowhere for Climax, but became a huge hit a short time later when The Righteous Brothers recorded it.
  • The Righteous Brothers were the duo of Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley. With hits including "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Unchained Melody," they were one of the biggest acts of the mid-'60s, but in 1968 Hatfield and Medley split to pursue solo careers.

    In 1974, the duo got back together, signing a deal with the songwriting/production team of Brian Potter and Dennis Lambert. Potter and Lambert thought "Rock And Roll Heaven" would be the perfect song for The Righteous Brothers comeback, so they had the duo record the song they day after signing them. Released as a single, it quickly rose up the Hot 100, sending them scrambling to the studio to quickly complete the Give It To The People album. In America, two more singles charted from the album: the title track (#20) and "Dream On" (#32).
  • The original Climax version of this song did not contain references to Bobby Darin or Jim Croce, who were still alive when it was released. The Righteous Brothers producers Brian Potter and Dennis Lambert changed the lyric to include these singers, making the song far more contemporary.
  • In our 2014 interview with Bill Medley, he explained that this song doesn't rank with their earlier classics. "We liked 'Rock and Roll Heaven,' but we knew it wasn't going to be necessarily a great Righteous Brothers record," he said. "We knew it wasn't going to be the kind of song that people were going to get dressed up and come out to watch you perform."
  • Session maestro Michael Omartian arranged this track. Omartian's credits include producing "We Are The World" with Quincy Jones and co-writing "She Works Hard For The Money" with Donna Summer.

Comments: 24

  • Jean from Owensboro, KyYes, Bill Medley does perform this song with the added tribute to Bobby Hatfield, singing the line "if there's a rock'n'roll heaven, then Bobby's got a hell of a band" as the tag line. During the '90s, the lyrics were updated to include several artists to have passed away in more recent years--Cass Elliott, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and several others.
  • Kirby from Kerrville, TxTo Mike in Lansing, I remember that being played on WVIC 95.7 FM by Danny " The Zipper Zapper" Stewart in the mid 70's
  • Paul from Detroit, MiThe best song of 1974, imo.
  • Mike from Lansing, MiI got ahold of a radio station promo copy of this in the mid 70'(WVIC Lansing, MI)that had parts of the artist's songs (usually the intro/1st verse/chorus)dubbed in after the line in the song mentioning them. i.e. Jimi(Foxey Lady), Janis(Piece of my Heart), Jim Morrison(Light My Fire), Jim Croce(Leroy Brown), Bobby Darin(Mack the Knife). I've never heard it since. Wish i'd kept that record. It was pretty cool. Anyone else remember this?
  • Patrick from Shelton, CtThe reason Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Bopper were not mentioned was twofold:

    1. There had been tribute songs to them, Three Stars by Tommy Dee, Carol Kaye and the Teen Aires, released a month or so after they died. Also, the death of Buddy Holly had been dissected over and over in Don Mc Lean's late 1971/early 1972 hit 'Amereican Pie.

    2. The singers mentioned in Rock and Roll Heaven had died within 3 or 4 years of the songs's release in May of 1974, and therefore were more "contemporary".

    Also, in 1961 Tex Ritter released a song "I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven", which paid tribute to deceased Country and Western singers at the time. Dolly Parton remade the song updating it to name singers who had died after the Ritter song.
  • Tim from Bovey, MnA good song, but please note it wasn't written by either of the Righteous Brothers, it was written by ALAN O'DAY and JOHNNY STEVENSON. It was recorded by several other artists. The updated version was put out in 1992.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdIt wouldn't be just "rock and roll". We don't know what the afterlife is like for dead pop stars if there really is a music section for country, rock, R&B, blues, soul. I have never heard this song but the phrase is often used to describe a dead a pop star.
  • John from Mansfield, TxBobby Hatfield made his way up there about five years ago.
    Prior to his demise;John Lennon;George Harrison;Stevie Ray Vaughan;Marvin Gaye;
    Elvis;Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins made their way there!!
    Also,the same year he died,Johnny Cash and June Carter entered R&R Heaven,then Bo Diddley went there as well!!
    So they definitely got a Helluva Band!!
  • Kristian from Perth, AustraliaJennifer: I know what you're saying but when you look at the figures, most of the best guitar players died at ages other than 27 or are not dead at all. Only a few out of hundreds died at 27.
  • George from Sarnia, OnIs it just me or does someone else think this song sounds like the Stylistics Rock'Roll Baby or does Rock'Roll Baby sounds like this song?
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdHave there been any religious theories regarding this song? I know it's about dead rock guys but does everyone believe there's rock music in the afterlife? I mean how can a dead soul play a rock song? Bobby Darin was more jazz than rock.
  • Farrah from Elon, NcI wonder if Bill Medley still performs this song. If so, he should write a verse mentioning Bobby Hatfield.
  • Erik from Sydenham, CanadaI had always thought that the line "If you believe in forever, then our gig is just a one-night stand" was "If you believe in forever, then life is just a one-night stand"...to me it sounds more appropriate considering the song is dedicated to young singers that have passed on...??
  • Michael from Grand Junction, Coso what is it refering to when it says "Jimi gave us rainbows"?
  • Tammy from Atlanta, GaThere is an updated version from the early 90s that mentions John Lennon, Cass Elliot, Marvin Gaye, Elvis, and several others. It's the same tune and chorus, but it's just not the same as the original
  • Jerry from Brooklyn, NyI have to agree with Robert's posting. It has been 32 years since this song first came out. Not only Bobby Hatfield, but we have lost John Lennon, George Harrison, David Ruffin and many more. If Bill Medley still does this song in his act, he should write, or have someone write for him, one or two more verses to honor these rock and roll greats.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnAn outstanding tribute to recording stars who died young such as jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bobby Darin. It also reestablished The Righteous Brothers as a recording act. "There's a spotlight waiting. No matter who you are."
  • Robin from Birmingham, AlYes, Stefanie. I believe you're referring to Don McLean's "American Pie."
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI wonder why they didnn't mension Buddy Holly, and all of those people that died in that plain crash in that song. Y'all know which plain crash I'm talking about, right?
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScYes Jennifer... not all of them but some of them. Robert Johnson was one of the first ones that that happened to. Well... maybe not one of the first. Some people however, think that his death cursed rock n roll foreverk, because after that a lot of rock stars died at young ages.
  • Roger from Bristol, TnEver notice that a lot of famous "J's" died early? Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Jim Croce, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, John Bonham, Keith Moon,(oh, that's a "K"),....food for thought.
  • Jennifer Prather from Newcomb, TnHas anyone ever noticed that all the best guitar players died when they were 27?
  • Jason from Wylie, Txi read a short stroy by stephen king that talked about all the dead rock stars livin ina twlight zone esque town somewhere between heaven and hell jim mrrison, elvis etc.
  • Robert from Topeka, KsBobby Hatfield just died this year (2003), he was a talented singer that will be missed He should be added to the list of those playing in that great big band in the sky.
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