♫ Unchained Melody ♫

I was planning to play this song, Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers, one night last week, but then I was advised that it was Appreciate A Dragon Day, and I switched gears to Puff, the Magic Dragon in honour of the occasion.  And then, the song was forgotten for a few nights until tonight, when I went in search of a song and … here it was!

This is a 1955 song with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret. North wrote the music as a theme for the little-known prison film Unchained (1955), hence the song title. Todd Duncan sang the vocals for the film soundtrack. It has since become a standard and one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, most notably by the Righteous Brothers. 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!  Wow, huh?

In 1955, three versions of the song (by Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, and Roy Hamilton) charted in the Billboard Top 10 in the United States, and four versions (by Al Hibbler, Les Baxter, Jimmy Young, and Liberace) appeared in the Top 20 in the United Kingdom simultaneously, an unbeaten record for any song.

Of the hundreds of recordings made, the Righteous Brothers’ version in July 1965, 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. The Righteous Brothers recording achieved a second round of great popularity when featured in the film Ghost in 1990.

I am amazed at some of the artists that have covered this song:

Barry Manilow, Cyndi Lauper, Elvis Presley, the Supremes, George Benson, U2 and many more.  Plus … Bono and The Edge also performed the song together with “One” for the charity 46664 Concert in tribute to Nelson Mandela held in Cape Town in 2003.

Unchained melody
The Righteous Brothers

Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
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
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, for your touch
A long, lonely time
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

Songwriters: Alex North / Hyman Zaret
Unchained melody lyrics © Unchained Melody Pub LLC

38 thoughts on “♫ Unchained Melody ♫

  1. With a box of tissues next to me, that I am already using, I’ll begin my comment by going back to a movie theater in 1990. The movie was, of course, “Ghost”. It was a family dinner and movie night that had brought us to the theater. The movie was the choice of my Son due to his fascination with Demi Moore and the then 13 year old eldest Daughter’s fixation with sexy men like Patrick Swayze (yes, he was!). I knew nothing about the movie beforehand as I trusted my Son would not take us to an X-rated film. I was dry-eyed until “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers began playing and immediately tears were running down my face. I was trying to stealthily wipe them away, but I was not successful. My youngest Daughter squeezed my hand and whispered to me : “It’s okay, it’s just a movie.” ‘No’, I whispered back, ‘it’s not just the movie’. And it wasn’t! Now, I’ll take you back to my introduction to the song which was in late 1955 when my Mother bought her first Harry Belafonte LP album “Belafonte”. This song was on that album and I was to hear it often over the years without giving it any thought…I was a very young girl at the time. If I remember correctly, his voice was only accompanied by guitar playing. It was not until 1965, that most promising year amongst years, that the song came back into my life. I was already a fan of The Righteous Brothers when the album “Just Once in My Life” that featured this song was released in 1965 and immediately purchased. It was when I played “Unchained Melody” for my Mother that I learned about her connection to the song. My Gram, an avid reader, had read the book “Prisoner Are People” by Kenyon Judson Scudder in the early 1950’s and passed it on to my Mother. When the January 1955 movie “Unchained”, which was based on that book, was released it was inevitable that Gram and my Mother would go to see it. My Mother, needless to say, first heard the song in the movie and later found it on the Harry Belafonte album. In August of 1965 when I went away to nursing school and was separated from my boyfriend for weeks on end, the song took on new meaning for both of us. This became even more so after he went to Vietnam. Then too soon came the time when “Unchained Melody” joined several other songs that connected me to happier times yet brought me to tears. That was true in 1990 and remains so to this day and most likely to my last breath. “Unchained Melody” makes me both sad for what was lost, but happy that once upon a time I had had it! Thank-you!

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  2. I always loved this song. So romantic. Then along came Ghost. Loved the film, love Swayze so much, God rest his soul, but there has been so much satire over it I just lost my enthusiasm. I also loved my Donny Osmond version as well. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, this is a terrific song. The original is excellent, but it has been covered well. My favorite version is by Ann Wilson of Heart. Hers may be the best female (or male for that matter) rock and roll voice. She tears this song up. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will check out Ann Wilson’s … I wasn’t even aware of that one, but that’s not surprising, with so many artists having covered it, and I only spent about an hour researching it. I’m glad you liked the song!

      Like

  4. Love that history, and wasn’t aware of it. I had to check out the movie plot on Wikipedia. I can’t imagine this song being the theme for a prison film, and the song was nominated for an Oscar. Amazing. Quite a song.

    The Righteous Brothers version is definitely my preferred. Thanks for posting. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    • Come on, Michael. Imagine being forced to be apart from the love of your life, with possibly no chance of ever seeing her again. This is the quintessential prison love song in my opinion. The Righteous Brothers’ version is the best I know, but with 670 other recorders I am not willing to say it is the best of all time. Mind you, it is hard to imagine anyone better.

      Liked by 2 people

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