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Unchained Melody
Song

Unchained Melody

The Righteous Brothers
Album:
Just Once In My LIfe

Song Meaning and Background of Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers


“Unchained Melody” was originally written in 1955 by a pair of Broadway songwriters. A decade later, the Righteous Brothers took it up.


It was a hit again a 25 years later, thanks to its use in the hollywood movie, Ghost.

"Unchained Melody" is a 1955 song with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret. North wrote the music as a theme for the prison film Unchained (1955), hence the song title.


It has since become a standard and one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, most notably by the Righteous Brothers in 1965.


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.


Of the hundreds of recordings made, the Righteous Brothers' version, with a solo by Bobby Hatfield, became the jukebox standard after its release. Hatfield changed the melody in the final verse and many subsequent covers of the song are based on his version.


In 1954, Alex North was contracted to compose the score for the prison film Unchained.


North had a melody he had written in the 1930s and composed and recorded the score when he was asked to write a song based upon the movie's theme.


North asked Hy Zaret to write the lyrics. After first refusing, Zaret and North together wrote "Unchained Melody."


Zaret refused the producer's request to include the word "unchained" in his lyrics.


The song eventually became known as the "Unchained Melody" even though the song does not actually include the word "unchained".


Instead, Zaret chose to focus on someone who pines for a lover he has not seen in a "long, lonely time".


The film centered on a man who contemplates either escaping from prison to live life on the run or completing his sentence and returning to his wife and family.


The best-known version of "Unchained Melody" was recorded by the duo the Righteous Brothers for Philles Records in 1965.


The lead vocal was performed solo by Bobby Hatfield, who later recorded other versions of the song credited solely to him. According to his singing partner Bill Medley, they had agreed to do one solo piece each per album. Both wanted to sing "Unchained Melody" for their fourth album, but Hatfield won the coin toss.

 

"Unchained Melody" was originally released as the "B" side of the single "Hung On You" as the follow-up single to "Just Once in My Life".


However, "Hung On You" failed to interest radio DJs who instead chose to play the 'B' side "Unchained Melody".


According to Medley, producer Phil Spector, who would deliberately place a throwaway song that was not meant to be played on the B side, was so incensed by DJs choosing to play the B side that he started to call their radio stations to get them to stop playing "Unchained Melody".


However, he failed, and the song reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 14 in the UK in 1965.


As Spector was not especially interested in producing b-sides or album tracks he left the production to Bill Medley, who had produced the duo before they signed with Spector and Philles.


He brought in a similar 'wall of sound' instrumental track.


Medley said: "Phil came to me and asked me to produce the Righteous Brothers albums because he would have taken too long and it would have cost too much money."


By Medley's account, Spector only claimed production credit after it supplanted "Hung On You" as the hit.

Early copies of the single did not credit a producer for "Unchained Melody" and only credited Spector as producer of the original single "Hung On You".


Hatfield made a change to the song during the recording sessions. The first two takes of the song he performed it in the same style as the Roy Hamilton.


For a third take, he decided to change the melody for the "I need your love" line in the final verse, and sang it much higher instead.


After this recording, Hatfield said he could do another take better, to which Medley replied: "No, you can't."


Medley played the Wurlitzer piano on the song and he noted that "if I knew that it was gonna be a hit I certainly would have brought in a better piano player."


"Unchained Melody" reappeared on the US Billboard charts in 1990 after the Righteous Brothers' recording was used in the box office blockbuster film Ghost.


This re-released song reached number 1 in the UK where it stayed for four weeks, becoming the UK's top selling single of 1990. As of 2017, it had sold 1.17 million copies in the UK. The 1990 reissue also reached number 1 in Australia, Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.


Lyrics of Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers


Oh, my love

My darling

I've hungered for your touch

A long, lonely time

 

And time goes by so slowly

And time can do so much

Are you still mine?

 

I need your love

I need your love

God speed your love to me

 

Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea

To the open arms of the sea

Yes, lonely rivers sigh, "Wait for me, wait for me

I'll be coming home, wait for me"

 

Oh, my love

My darling

I've hungered, hungered for your touch

A long, lonely time

 

And time goes by so slowly

And time can do so much

Are you still mine?

 

I need your love

I, I need your love

God speed your love to me

Release Date

1965

Songwriter/s

Alex North, Hy Zaret

Producer/s

Phil Spector

Label/s

Phillies

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