The distinguished catalog of the righteous brothers is dominated by two powerful works that have become, for many, their greatest legacy. But there is so much more to their songbook than the immortal “You’ve Lost That Lovin ‘Feelin’” and the everlasting “Unchained Melody”.
The indie duo of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield have enjoyed three distinct periods together, all of which produced countless memorable moments on record and in the charts. After Hatfield’s death in 2003, Medley enlisted Bucky Heard in a later incarnation of the group. But in their heyday of the 1960s, and again in their reunions, the original duo were unmistakably brothers in harmony, if not in blood. Here we present a selection of the best songs from Righteous Brothers.
‘Little Latin Lupe Lu’
Medley and Hatfield, born less than a month apart in 1940, were experienced performers when they met at the Black Derby club in Santa Ana, Calif., In 1962. After singing in separate groups, they gathered in the Paramours, who signed for the Moonglow label. When they broke up, the couple stayed together and found their new name, the Righteous Brothers.
They took a break when “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” written by Medley at the age of 19, landed them a distribution deal with VeeJay Records. Produced by Ray Maxwell of Moonglow, it was big and brassy, very dancey and a first showcase for the duo’s beautifully matched vocals. It became a part of the middle of the graph on Billboard‘s Hot 100 in 1963.
A biography Billboard The article in the week the song peaked at No. 49 noted that, early in their working relationship, “they sang at local clubs in Southern California and made it a big hit with area teens. … The two boys sang in their high school and church choirs. Medley also plays the piano and the guitar. They are currently making television and personal appearances to promote their successful record. ”
This follow-up, with writing credits for both singers, demonstrated the delivery duo’s unusual combination of bluesy-soul, swing, cabaret-ready brass and even a small electric guitar. It was another lower charts entry, but the act was reaching a growing audience. Billboard noted in August 1963: “The popular Righteous Brothers are quickly making their mark among the country’s leading new artists. ”
‘I am so lonely’
“My Babe” was quickly followed by their debut album Right now!, which the magazine observed, “It’s just possible that they have a winner.” They certainly did, as the LP (produced by Medley) rose to 8th place in the R&B chart and 11th place in pop. Alongside the two chart singles, it included their version of “Bye Bye Love”, a signature for these former masters of double harmony the Everly Brothers, and versions of “Let The Good Times Roll”, “My Prayer” and “Georgia On My Mind.” Among the flavors of gospel and blues he also showed their ease with an updated doo-wop sound on Hatfield’s admirable “I’m So Lonely”.
‘You have lost that feeling of love’
1964 is the year that changes everything for the duo. They have had the distinction of being invited on American tours by both The Beatles and the rolling stones, appeared on the influential show Shindig !, and was spotted by a certain Phil Spector. Quite impressed, the eminent producer made a deal with Moonglow to release them on both sides of the Atlantic on Philles, the label he and Lester Sill had formed in 1961.
“You have lost that feeling of love”, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil with additional credit for Spector, was the sensational first result, built by the idiosyncratic and undeniably brilliant mogul into a towering edifice in his famous sound barrier. Widely hailed as a masterpiece, and notably as a lifelong inspiration by Brian Wilson, it topped the charts in the US and UK and returned to the UK Top 10 in 1969 and 1990.
“Just once in my life”
Any sequel to such an epic moment in pop history should fight for the light, but this superb tearful by Carole King, Gerry Goffin and Spector was a worthy sequel and an entry into the American Top 10. Inexplicably unsuccessful in the UK, where the duo had to wait a little longer for more fame on the charts, “Just Once In My Life” captured Medley and Hatfield at their best, and garnered great coverage by beach boys on the 1976 album 15 large.
No Righteous Brothers best-of could exist without this indestructible brown, which climbed the charts in 1965 and then had a spectacular lap of honor when it was featured in the hit movie Ghost in 1990. It’s was ironic in itself, since the Alex North-Hy Zaret composition had originally survived the 1955 film it was written for, unleashed, being part of the American Top 10 for no less than three artists, Les Baxter, Al Hibbler and Roy Hamilton. Credited here to the Righteous Brothers, it was actually a Hatfield solo tour de force; the new and re-recorded versions were in the Top 20 American Hits in 1990, and the reissue went on to become No. 1 worldwide.
A song from the early teenage years of the two singers, which further proved how adept they were at repopulating old classics. “Ebb Tide” was a No. 2 hit in the United States as an instrumental, to English musician, arranger and conductor Frank Chacksfield in 1953, and was also recorded by Frank sinatra (on his classic, Nelson Riddle arranged Sing for only the lonely), the Platters and many others before the “brothers” get started.
‘(You are my) soul and inspiration’
Any suggestion that the vocal stylists would be lost without Spector was dismissed when they left Philles for Verve and scored their second American No.1 with this glorious piece from the same team as the first, successful master designers Mann and Weil. . The duo’s performance and Jack Nitzche’s arrangement no doubt convinced many that Spector’s massive production was still on the line. The song sold for a million in America alone.
‘On this side of the farewell’
Subsequent Verve singles of the pair from their early years together would fall victim to the law of diminishing returns. But there were gems to be had for those who stayed with them, as the booming modern pop scene swept all around. Another creation from Goffin-King, this romantic drama combined with some lovely vocal interaction and a hint or two of their loving feeling from a few years ago. But not enough fans agreed, resulting in a No.47 spike, and after other minor chart skirmishes, Medley and Hatfield went their separate ways in 1968. The Old One recorded solo and the latter maintained the name of the group, until the early 1970s, with his new companion Jimmy Walker.
“Rock and roll paradise”
The original couple reunited for a Sonny and Cher comedy time in 1974, triggering a new contract with the Haven label, distributed by Capitol and directed by the writing and production duo of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. In an admirable track from A&R, the duo were led to this irresistible tribute to rock, pop and soul greats written by Alan O’Day (who himself topped the Hot 100 in 1977 with “Undercover Angel “) and Johnny Stevenson. The combination of nostalgia for the vocal sound of the Righteous Brothers and the evocative celebration of many of their contemporaries from Bobby Darin to Otis redding – now playing in rock ‘n’ roll heaven as “hell of a band” – was a big winner, and the single climbed to number three.
“Give it to the people”
There was one final US Top 20 appearance for the duo with a new song in 1974, written by their label bosses Potter and Lambert and again with a rock flavor, augmented by strings and their usual safe and charismatic delivery. At one point, Hatfield sings “Let me do my righteous thing!” These two great artists have always done it.
Listen to the best songs from Righteous Brothers on Apple Music and Spotify.