Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

THIS DAY IN MUSIC…………………………………….on November 3rd of 1990 The Righteous Brothers’ rendition of “Unchained Melody” rose to #1 on the UK singles chart 25 years after it had first been released. 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. 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. 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.