50s Music

The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody

About the song

If you are a fan of romantic movies, you probably know the song “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. It’s the one that plays during the famous pottery scene in Ghost, where Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore get cozy with some clay. But did you know that this song has a long and fascinating history that goes back to the 1950s?

The song was originally written by composer Alex North and lyricist Hy Zaret for a prison film called Unchained, released in 1955. The film was about a man who had to choose between escaping from prison or staying with his wife and family. The song was meant to express his longing and loneliness, hence the title “Unchained Melody”. The first version of the song was sung by Todd Duncan, who played one of the prisoners in the film.

The song became a hit in 1955, with several artists covering it, including Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, Roy Hamilton, and Jimmy Young. The latter reached number one in the UK with his version. The song was also popular among rock and roll singers, such as Gene Vincent, Ricky Nelson, and Elvis Presley.

However, the most famous version of the song was recorded by The Righteous Brothers in 1965. The duo consisted of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, who were known for their soulful harmonies and blue-eyed soul style. They had already scored hits with songs like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” and “Just Once in My Life”, produced by Phil Spector.

For their fourth album, they decided to record “Unchained Melody” as a solo piece for Hatfield, who won a coin toss against Medley. The song was originally released as the B-side of their single “Hung On You”, but radio DJs preferred to play the flip side. The song became a huge success, reaching number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 14 on the UK Singles Chart. It also earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

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The song was revived in 1990, when it was featured in the film Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore as a couple who are separated by death but reunited by love. The scene where they make pottery while listening to “Unchained Melody” became one of the most iconic moments in cinema history, and boosted the popularity of the song once again. The Righteous Brothers’ version was re-released as a single and reached number one in both the US and the UK, making it the only song to do so twice in both countries. It also won an Oscar for Best Original Song and a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

“Unchained Melody” is one of the most recorded songs of all time, with over 1,500 versions by more than 670 artists in various languages. It has been covered by singers such as U2, LeAnn Rimes, Barry Manilow, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Cyndi Lauper, and many more. It is also one of the most loved songs of all time, ranking high on lists of best songs ever by Rolling Stone, AFI, VH1, and others.

So next time you hear this song, remember that it has a rich and complex history that spans decades and genres. It is not just a song about love, but also about freedom, hope, and longing. It is truly an unchained melody.


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