Ha! Eindelijk kan ik weer eens de reddende engel spelen. Vandaag is het immers al vijftien jaar geleden dat de Amerikaanse zanger Bobby Hatfield is overleden. Enkel “specialisten” zullen hem herkennen als de tenor uit het vocale duo The Righteous Brothers. Niet alleen heeft zijn collega, bariton Bill Medley, het toch tot enige grotere bekendheid geschopt, het is vooral wraakroepend dat één van hun grootste hits, “Unchained melody” uit 1965, de geschiedenis is ingegaan als “van The Righteous Brothers”, terwijl Bill Medley daarop niet eens te horen is! Postume hulde dus voor Bobby Hatfield!

“Unchained Melody” is a 1955 song with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret. North used the music as a theme for the little-known prison film Unchained (1955), hence the song title, die zonder deze kennis anders onbegrijpelijk is (tenzij men vindt dat de zanger – en dan vooral in de versie van Bobby Hatfield – zich de ziel uit zijn lijf zingt: unchained).
Todd Duncan sang the vocals for the film soundtrack. It has since become a standard and one of the most often recorded songs of the 20th century. According to the song’s publishing administrator, over 1,500 recordings of “Unchained Melody” have been made by more than 670 artists, in multiple languages.
In 1955, three versions of the song (by Les Baxter, Al Hibbler and Roy Hamilton) charted in the Billboard Top 10 in the United States, and four versions (by Al Hibbler, Les Baxter, Jimmy Young, and Liberace) appeared in the Top 20 in the United Kingdom simultaneously, an unbeaten record for any song until it was joined by “Do They Know It’s Christmas” in 2014.
Of the hundreds of recordings made, it was the July 1965 version by the Righteous Brothers, performed as a solo by Bobby Hatfield, that became a jukebox standard for the late 20th century. Hatfield made a change to the melody and many subsequent covers of the song would be based on his version. The recording by Righteous Brothers achieved a second round of great popularity when it was featured in the film Ghost (1990). In 2004, it finished at number 27 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. (Wikipedia)
Born in Wisconsin, Hatfield moved with his family to California, when he was four. He briefly considered signing as a professional basketballplayer, but his passion for music led him to pursue a singing career while still attending high school. He eventually encountered his singing partner, Bill Medley, while attending California State University, Long Beach.
Bobby Hatfield initially was in a group called the Variations. In 1962, Hatfield joined force with Medley who was in a group called the Paramours, and formed a five-member group using the same name Paramours.Later they performed as a duo and named their singing act The Righteous Brothers. They were often told they sounded like African-American gospel singers and chose the name after black Marines remarked of their singing, “that’s righteous, brothers”.
In 1964, they met the music producer Phil Spector, who signed them to his own label Philles Records. Their first No.1 was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” produced by Phil Spector in 1964. The follow-up hit was “Unchained Melody,” which was actually a Hatfield solo performance, as I’ve said several times. After the success of “Unchained Melody”, Spector then started recording older standards with the Righteous Brothers such as “Ebb Tide”, which Hatfield also performed solo. Both “Unchained Melody” and “Ebb Tide” were songs he had performed with his first group, the Variations. Another two of the last songs the duo recorded with Philles Records, “The White Cliffs of Dover” and “For Sentimental Reasons”, were also performed solo by Hatfield.
In 1966, the Righteous Brothers left Spector and signed with Verve/MGM Records, and had a hit with “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration”. However the duo broke up in 1968, and Hatfield teamed up with singer Jimmy Walker (from The Knickerbockers) using the Righteous Brothers name on the MGM label. The new partnership released an album but did not have much success. Hatfield recorded a number of singles as a solo artist, such as the self-penned “Hang Ups” and covers of older songs, but “Only You” was the only lowly charted single. In 1969, Hatfield also appeared in a TV movie, The Ballad of Andy Crocker. In 1971, he released a solo album, Messin’ In Muscle Shoals, recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals in August 1970. However, MGM was in financial trouble, a scheduled single “The Promised Land”/”Woman You Got No Soul” was not released, and with little promotion the album largely went unnoticed.
Hatfield and Medley reunited in 1974, and had another hit, “Rock and Roll Heaven.” A hiatus followed between 1976 and 1981 when Medley retired from music after his wife died, but they reunited for an anniversary special on American Bandstand in 1981 to perform an updated version of “Rock And Roll Heaven”. In 1990, after the success of the 1990 film Ghost where “Unchained Melody” was used, Hatfield re-recorded “Unchained Melody”, and Hatfield remarked to friends that he had not lost any of the high notes in his tenor range since the original recording, but had actually gained one note. The duo then toured extensively all through the 1990s and early 2000s. The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2003 by Billy Joel.
In his personal life Hatfield had a short marriage with Joy Ciro, who appeared as a dancer on the T.A.M.I. Show and Where the Action Is. They had two children, Bobby Jr. and Kalin. After their divorce Hatfield married a girl named Linda in 1979, and they remained married until his death. His wife suffered from lupus (systeemlupus of systemische lupus erythematosus (SLE) is een veralgemeende auto-immuunziekte, dat wil zeggen dat onze immuniteit zich op overdreven wijze tegen onszelf richt, o.a. door antistoffen te vormen die ontstekingsziekten veroorzaken) and Hatfield set up an annual golf tournament, the Bobby Hatfield Charity Golf Classic, to raise funds for charities for the disease. The couple had two children, Vallyn and Dustin.
Hatfield died at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan on November 5, 2003, found by an employee at the hotel. He apparently died in his sleep, hours before a scheduled Righteous Brothers concert. In January 2004, a toxicology report concluded that an overdose of cocaine had precipitated a fatal heart attack. The initial autopsy found that Hatfield had advanced coronary disease. The medical examiner stated that “in this case, there was already a significant amount of blockage in the coronary arteries.” [Wikipedia]

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