MONDAY ROCK CITY: INTERVIEW WITH BILL MEDLEY OF THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS
From The Weeklings
for the entire interview go here:
for the entire interview go here:
It’s one thing to see one of your albums achieve platinum certification, but it’s a whole different stratosphere to own the most-played song in radio history. Backed by the legendary Wrecking Crew studio band and showcasing producer Phil Spector’s famous “Wall of Sound” recording technique, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” stands alone among the classic offerings of the twentieth century. Of course, a song like this could never work without the absolutely perfect voice.
Enter Bill Medley.
One half of the legendary Righteous Brothers (along with Bobby Hatfield), the duo were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and Bill’s voice remains the gold standard for what would eventually be known as “blue-eyed soul.”
Released in 1964, BMI would ultimately rank “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” as the most played song of all time. It has also received more TV exposure than any other song in the 20th century and it sits at #34 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Also boasting the Demi Moore-bothering ballad, “Unchained Melody,” Bill has won a Grammy, a Golden Globe, an American Music Award, an Oscar and Video of the Year honors. He has enjoyed a successful solo career, he has appeared in movies and television and he continues to tour to this day, most recently playing a series of dates in Australia.
We caught up with Bill shortly before his trip to wax sentimental about the golden era of rock and roll and talk about his new memoir, The Time of My Life out April 15th on Da Capo Press.
Before we start, do you remember a blue-eyed soul band called the Boogie Kings?
Are you kidding me? Those guys were awesome. Of course I remember.
My uncle played for them. He used to talk about your voice, those blues licks and the tone. You were the guy.
Well, that’s a compliment coming from the Boogie Kings. Those guys were just incredible. Yeah man, we loved the Boogie Kings as musicians and they became good friends of the Righteous Brother later on. Hell of a band.
A quote from your book: “There’s nothing about the Righteous Brothers that should have worked.” What does that mean?
We should have been the Boogie Kings! Man, we were so opposite. One guy sang high, the other low. One guy tall, one short. We were like a quartet without the two guys in the middle. If you were putting two guys together to make hit records, you wouldn’t have picked Bobby and me. But the great thing about success – and even about “Lovin’ Feeling” – is everything that made the group wrong and that song wrong, also made it commercially interesting.
You’ve played everywhere, with everybody, having top hits on the Pop, R&B and Country charts. Who were your influences?
The Righteous Brothers were purely rhythm and blues, black music. Little Richard was it for me, man. Later, it was Ray Charles and Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King. Bobby (Hatfield) was also into do-wop music coming off street corners in the fifties. Stuff like “Earth Angel” and all of that and Bobby was just the best at it. That’s what we knew and truth is, we weren’t crazy about a lot of white music in that day. It sounds cool now but back in ‘62 it wasn’t such a great idea for two white guys that sounded black to get together. But we were just doing what we loved to do.
You and Bobby had a difficult relationship. Seems like you were trying to make peace with him through the book.
Bobby and I started out doing songs like “Little Latin Lupe Lou” and “Koko Joe”, just rock and roll rhythm and blues so the first three years was just having a good time. Going out, singing and getting paid more than we could spend and having girls hit on us that we wouldn’t have thought about before. When “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” hit we were doing a show called Shindig! and the Righteous Brothers suddenly became big business. Managers, agents, all these people we had to answer to and that really wasn’t what Bobby signed up to do. He just wanted the fun and the music. Our comfort levels were way different – I wanted to push it high as it could go but he wanted to keep it down and just have fun. He was a great singer but never comfortable on stage. Bobby became a big star by accident. There was nothing about Bobby I didn’t like… I guess I never understood why he took a left-hand turn when real success came. We got along better from 1990 until his death in 2003. I had accepted him for who he was.
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