Like The Walker Brothers, The Righteous Brothers were not brothers at all. Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield were a club act popular in southern California, but they attracted national attention in 1965 when Phil Spector provided them with the soulful classic You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – his and their finest hour, according to many.
Spector met Hatfield and Medley at San Francisco’s Cow Palace in 1964 – The Righteous Brothers were on the bill and Spector was conducting the band.
Impressed by the pair’s performance, Spector leased their contract from Moonglow Records, then had New York songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil fly to write Los Angeles to write a song for them.
Mann and Weil composed You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ on a rented piano at their hotel, the Chateau Marmont, then finished the song at Spector’s house, with Spector helping out on the bridge.
Spector then spent over a week – not to mention $2,000 (a considerable amount at that time) – working on the backing tracks.
Although the song ran for nearly four minutes, it was listed on the label at three minutes and five seconds as Spector feared radio stations would be reluctant to play the song if they knew how long it really was. Lying about the song’s length worked and the record became an instant worldwide number one.
Within a year they had four Top 10 hits, all produced by Spector. The duo barnstormed the US as headliners, opened package tours for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and were almost weekly fixtures on the TV music show Shindig!
At the peak of their success, however, a legal battle between their original label, Moonglow, and Spector’s Phillies label ended their collaboration with Spector.
They eventually signed with MGM Records and came up with three more hits, including (You’re My) Soul and Inspiration, which went to #1 in 1966.
But the magic of the Spector years was gone and it was downhill all the way, leading to the duo parting in 1968 with Medley going solo and Hatfield hiring another singer, Jimmy Walker, to continue touring as The Righteous Brothers.
Six years later, Medley and Hatfield reunited for a Top 10 return, Rock & Roll Heaven. In 1982 the duo formed a working partnership again, as well as opening a restaurant and dance club – called The Hop – together in Fountain Valley, California.
Bill Medley enjoyed a successful solo career, duetting with Jennifer Warnes on (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life for the movie Dirty Dancing (1987). It won him and Warnes a Grammy Award in 1988. He also featured in Ghost (1990) with Unchained Melody.
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin enjoyed another burst of success when it was included in the 1986 Tom Cruise movie Top Gun.
Bobby Hatfield was found dead in his hotel room in Kalamazoo, Michigan on 5 November 2003, half an hour before the duo were due to perform at Western Michigan University. The cause of his death was attributed to cocaine-related heart failure.