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Unchained Melody--Righteous Brothers (Thomas Stevens)

Written by composer Alex North and lyricist Hy Zaret for the 1955 prison film Unchained, the song Unchained Melody became one of the biggest hits of the 1960s and one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century.  According to the song's publisher, over 1,500 recordings of Unchained Melody have been produced in multiple languages.

The best-known version of the song was recorded on 2 March 1965 at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, CA by The Righteous Brothers, a singing duo comprised of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield.  Both wanted to sing the song but Hatfield ended up with the lead vocal after winning a coin flip with Medley.

After a couple of takes, Hatfield changed the melody for the line "I need your love", singing it much higher.  After hearing the recording, Hatfield then said he could do it even better.  Medley replied: "No, you can't.”

In 1964, the duo met well-known music producer Phil Spector at a performance at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. They impressed him and he signed them to his own label, Philles Records.  Ironically, Spector did not think highly of Unchained Melody, delegating it to the “B” side of the single, Hung On You (written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King).  Many DJs, however, preferred Unchained Melody and played that side of the 45 rpm instead.  The song then became a huge hit, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the fall of 1965.

Spector, known for his "Wall Of Sound" technique, took credit for the song's production even though the song was obviously produced by someone else, in this case, Medley.   Years later, Medley said that "Phil came to me and asked me to produce The Righteous Brothers albums because he would have taken too long and it would have cost too much money."

The Righteous Brothers' cover of Unchained Melody is widely considered the definitive version.  Hatfield's vocal has been described as a “tour de force....powerful, full of romantic hunger, (and) yet ethereal”.  Medley's production has also received wide acclaim.

In 1990, boosted by an appearance in the film Ghost, the song was re-released by oldies-reissue label Eric Records and quickly became a hit again, topping the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart for two weeks.  The Righteous Brothers, who weren't getting any residuals from the original any longer, decided to re-record the song and release it on Curb, Bill Medley's label.  In a very unusual occurrence, both versions ended up in the Top 20 at the same time.  Therefore, if added together, a song more than two decades old would have been the No. 1 song of the year.   That was actually the case in the UK.  The song went to No. 1 and became the biggest-selling single of 1990.  In fact, it is the only song in the UK ever to be a No. 1 hit for four different artists.


Unchained Melody

Due to illness, Thomas Stevens was unable to perform on the evening of the recording. There is no sound file for this song.