By JOHN PATRICK GATTA
It was a chance union between two Orange County, Calif., groups in the early 1960s that led to a magical pairing between two singers.
The teaming of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, AKA the Righteous Brothers, led to successful singles and albums over the next four decades and several generations of fans.
In a recent telephone interview, Medley discussed the Brothers' success.
"It certainly didn't look good on paper. One guy's tall. One's short. One sings high. One sings low. One's dark haired. Ones light haired. It was all the opposites but it just worked."
How they got their name
What helped the two from their earliest days playing local gigs and throughout their career has been the ability to appeal to multi-racial audiences. On the group's Web site, Hatfield explained that they earned their moniker when a black Marine who was impressed by their performance shouted "That's righteous, brothers!"
Dubbed "blue-eyed soul," early in their career, Medley said that the descriptive name was as much a compliment as it was a nod to the duo's race. "A disc jockey, I think in Philadelphia, for a black radio station started calling us his 'blue-eyed soul brothers' because they had a policy of playing all black music, but they had decided to play our records. It was the disc jockey's way of saying , 'Here's the Righteous Brothers record, and by the way, they're white.' Not necessarily meaning anything, just kind of giving his audience information.
"Obviously, the black audiences knew these guys were white. So, that caught on and then 'blue-eyed soul' just became a phrase people referred to us as."
While the duo achieved moderate success with their raucous R & amp;B-inspired numbers such as "Little Latin Lupe Lu" and "My Babe," it was their association with Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound production that caused the Righteous Brothers to gain a phenomenal and lasting impression on music listeners. Starting with "You Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" in 1965 and followed by other charttoppers such as "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration," "He Will Break Your Heart" and "Rock and Roll Heaven." Besides contributing vocals to numerous hits, Medley also produced much of the Righteous Brothers' material including "Unchained Melody."
"A great record comes, first off, from a great song, then a great arrangement, a great producer and an artist that can do that song correctly. All those things together and, obviously, all the other magical things that have to happen for a hit record."
Explaining how something magical can happen, Medley discussed the group's most famous number. "There was a lot of things wrong with 'Lovin' Feelin'' and I think that's what made it so right. It was too long, considered to be too slow. I was probably singing too low.
"You just knew it was there because it was so different from everything that was going on. That could be good news or bad news. If you're standing out because you're the ugly duckling, I guess that's not so good. It was a real dramatic record for those days, 1964. Especially for the white population, that probably was what teenagers were feeling; a little more honest than maybe some of the bubblegum stuff that was happening."
Three years ago, the vocal duo's ballad "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" placed No. 1 in the "Top 100 Songs of the Century," based on the eight million plays it received on American radio and television.
"Actually 'Lovin' Feelin'' would have been a big hit when it was in the film 'Top Gun.' If they would have re-released it like they did with 'Unchained Melody,' [from "Ghost"] I think it would have went to No. 1 again. But they didn't, and they didn't think it could happen. Now, looking back at 'Unchained Melody,' they think it would have."
Hall of Famers
Though the Righteous Brothers remain a strong commercial entity, they finally received a nod of approval from their peers earlier this month when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Reflecting on this, Medley said, "When we were told that we were nominated. I figured, 'Well, it probably isn't going to happen the first time in, but it did, so I was extremely happy and very proud. It kind of felt like our career did mean something, our music meant something. We touched somebody."
At the moment the Righteous Brothers are not inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon.
The omission is due to current criteria that recognizes artists with "three-part harmony." In an e-mail statement, Bob Crosby, Vocal Group Hall of Fame president and CEO, said that there is discussion to include duo groups next year.