In 1964, the genius record producer and future (convicted) murderer, Phil Spector, was watching his group The Ronettes at the Cow Palace, when the opening act caught his eye doing Blue Eyed Soul; they were called: THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS. The Brothers were: BILL MEDLEY with his Bass-Baritone voice, and BOBBY HATFIELD with his distinctive Countertenor, which blended together in a special and soulful way.
They had a record contract, but hadn't had much success, so Philly negotiated with Moonglow Records a deal to produce them and release their records on his Philles label. Phil had moved back to the West Coast after a stint in New York, and was ready to put his Wall of Sound recording technique on the map, and he saw the boys as the perfect vehicle.
Phil treated the vocalists as musical instruments, embedded with the other instruments. To get started he knew he had to have a great song that lent itself to big production. So he commissioned the hot songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil whom he worked with back in the City, to compose his first song with the Righteous Brothers. The song that was titled, YOU'VE LOST THAT LOVING FEELIN', was perfect for his needs.
The Studio was packed with players, including two pianos, and I believe a teenage Brian Wilson sitting on the Studio floor with maracas. The rest is history; although "You've Lost That Loving Feelin'" only reached #4 on the Pop Charts in 1965, the epic production would go on to be: "The most played song on American radio and television of the 20th century, with more than eight million airplays by the end of 1999." Although they'd go on to have 2 more Top 10 records: "Soul and Inspiration," and, "Just Once In My Life," nothing came close to the success of "You've Lost That Loving Feelin'," along with some less popular releases.
The first time I met them they sang the praises of Mr. Spector, who had made them rich and famous. I didn't really know Bill Medley, but I did spend some time with Bobby Hatfield; once by accident we sat together on a trans-continental plane ride, and I sensed he might have a drug problem, with frequent trips to the bathroom and sniffing. So in November of 2003 I wasn't very surprised, but deeply saddened, to hear that Bobby had died of heart failure do to excessive cocaine use.
The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the same year shortly before his death, and we were all glad to see that he had lived to experience that. Here is a Stereo HQ Hybrid video with sharp B/W picture and great audio, of Bill and Bobby, The Righteous Brothers performing one of the greatest songs of the Golden Age of Rock and Roll: "You've Lost That Loving Feeling."
A version of this post originally appeared on The Don Rocks Facebook page. For more stories like these every day, join us on Facebook and Twitter.