Soul & Inspiration: A Conversation with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers

Soul & Inspiration: A Conversation with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers

bill medley “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips…” Had they only recorded You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, The Righteous Brothers would have done enough to cement their place in rock and roll history.

The Time of My Life, a new autobiography by surviving Righteous Brothers vocalist Bill Medley with Mike Marino, chronicles the colorful life of the legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

It covers war stories about working with tortured genius producer Phil Spector, touring with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, hanging out with Elvis Presley in Las Vegas and more.

Away from those career milestones, the book also delves deep into the dark side of his life, the unfathomable murder of his wife, Karen and untimely passing of fellow Righteous Brother, Bobby Hatfield. Featuring a foreword by unabashed acolyte Billy JoelThe Time of My Life is a fascinating read.

Rock Cellar Magazine: In 2014, who is Bill Medley’s soul and inspiration?

Bill Medley: Well, my family, all of them. I have a forty-eight year-old son, a twenty-seven-year old daughter, a lovely wife and my grandchildren too. Those are the people that keep me alive. And I can’t forget my audiences.

Life is good.

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Medley performing for the Clintons

Rock Cellar Magazine: What made your chemistry and vocal blend work so well with long-time partner Bobby Hatfield?

Bill Medley: If you looked at The Righteous Brothers on paper you would say, “Well, this is really wrong.” (laughs) Bobby was a legitimate first tenor and I was a legitimate baritone bass. So I had to sing a little higher than I should have been, not on Lovin’ Feelin’ but on a lot of stuff that we had recorded. I was singing pretty high on that stuff so Bobby’s voice could have the same energy.

I think by doing that we just sang really hard. But probably more important than that is we so much loved what we were doing and loved the music. It was kind of like the beauty and the beast. Bobby had a beautiful voice, just a stunning voice and I’ve got this voice. (laughs) It’s kind of gravely and a little more dirty and Bobby’s is cleaner. So you put those two together and it made for an interesting combination.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Bobby’s vocals on Unchained Melody, for example, are stunning. Did he recognize his gift?

Bill Medley: I don’t think he knew how good he was. I don’t think either one of us were thinking, “Are we good or not?,” I think we were just saying, “Thank God people enjoy what we’re doing.” We admired so many other people and we certainly didn’t feel we were above anyone – but Bobby was sensational.

I happened to produce Unchained Melody; I know a lot of people think Phil (Spector) did it but I produced and arranged it. I had the arrangement all done and Bobby came in and sang it twice and that was it. I played piano and sang vocal background on it. Unchained Melody was supposed to be the B-side of Hung on You and if I knew that it was gonna be a hit I certainly would have brought in a better piano player. (laughs)

Rock Cellar Magazine: What’s the difference between a good singer and a great singer?

Bill Medley: Boy, that’s a tough one. You might be asking the wrong guy. (laughs)  For me, I can listen to great singers like Glen Campbell and Andy Williams and they just have great great voices. Not taking anything away from them but I also really loved somebody like Ray Charles who had that soul.

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“I think the difference between a good singer and a great singer is how they relate to the song and how they can interpret it and make you believe it. I guess making an audience believe what you’re saying is really the art.”

Rock Cellar Magazine: Were your surprised that before people had laid eyes on The Righteous Brothers they thought you were black?

Bill Medley: We understood it but it wasn’t anything that we were striving for. I was brought up on rhythm and blues and so was Bobby and I wrote the song Little Latin Lupe Lu and it became a hit. When we went into the studio naturally we wanted to do stuff that we loved and what we loved was rhythm and blues. You have to remember back in ’62 and ’63 being two white guys sounding black was not a commercial thing to do.

But it ended up where a lot of white kids listened to us and saw us and said, “Man, I didn’t know I could feel like that, that’s great!”

Rock Cellar Magazine: You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’ is one of the most played songs in music history. When you heard back the finished take you didn’t think it would be a hit, why?  

Bill MedleyYou gotta remember, this was back in 1965 and every record had to be about two minutes and twenty seconds. Even though Phil Spector listed the time of the record as three minutes and fifty seconds, Lovin’ Feelin‘ was over four minutes so it was long. Disc jockeys loved it; they called it their “potty song” (laughs) and because it was long they were able to take a “potty break.”

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2 Responses to "Soul & Inspiration: A Conversation with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers"

  1. Virginia Ann Floyd   July 23, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    I really miss Bobby being with you, Bill. Just saying that brings tears to my eyes. What a wonderful duo you two were. And always will be to me. I play your music and you and Bobby have beautiful voices together. I am an 86 year old grandmother who will never tire of listening to you; however, I do wish much success to you and Bucky in continuing The Righteous Brothers. God bless you. Virginia Ann Floyd, 1012 Silver Streak Drive, Saginaw, TX 76131.

    Reply

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