Bill Medley and his current Righteous Brothers partner, Bucky Heard, released an album titled The Righteous Brothers in 2016. They did it, Medley said, “basically to sell at the concerts; it was kind of a good way for Bucky to learn the show and get acquainted with all of those songs.”
Medley continued to perform as a solo artist after the death of his longtime Righteous Brothers partner Bobby Hatfield in 2003, but resurrected the Righteous Brothers name with Heard in 2016. Their album including re-recordings of old songs such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” and “Rock and Roll Heaven.”
“That is really what the album is, it is all of our old songs,” Medley said. “I did a duet with Van Morrison (‘Fame Will Eat the Soul,’ from 2019’s Three Chords & the Truth) and I get called quite a bit to do a duet or this and that and if I like the song, I’ll do it. I’m 81, so I’m not holding my breath waiting to record. I feel very blessed that I’m able to still come out on the road and perform, so I feel like I’m way ahead of the game.”
Medley’s voice is among the most recognizable in all of music. With respect to all the golden-throated peers who came before him, and after, there is only one Bill Medley.
With the death of Hatfield, The Righteous Brothers faced uncertainty. But Medley is driven by the desire to perform, to continue bringing decades of classic hits to audiences both new and old. When asked about adding a new personality to this iconic sound, he quickly points to the past.
“Onstage, Bucky will be singing something or we will be doing something together that Bobby and I used to do and Bobby will come to mind,” he said. “But I’m always amazed that we are doing it so well. It really feels like The Righteous Brothers singing and, yeah, I think about Bobby all of the time, both onstage and offstage. He obviously was a big part of my life and we went into a lot of wars together and came out of them and that creates quite a bond.
“When onstage, we do all of the hits and have a lot of fun doing it. We kind of let the audience in. I’ve always felt that the audience is our partner.
“Bucky Heard is just an incredible singer and an incredible guy who has just become a really good friend, even though we were friends for about five years before we got together. … (Heard is) a big Bobby Hatfield fan anyway, so it was very natural and easy.”
Their shows, Medley said, “last anywhere from an hour and 15 to an hour and a half. That’s usually what they want for the theaters and that’s plenty and gets it all done. … Once in a while people will yell out a song we haven’t done and we say, ‘Okay, we’ll try it.’ I guess it works out okay but not as good as if we had rehearsed it with the band (laughs). We carry our own band: two horns, two female singers, a rhythm section and there are actually six people who sing in the band, and we carry our own sound man. We want it to be as right as it can be.”
While the duo had most of its hits in the ’60s and ’70s, there was a revival of interest in The Righteous Brothers in the ’80s, due largely to Hollywood.
” ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ‘ was in ‘Top Gun’ and the next year I did ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ for ‘Dirty Dancing’ and then ‘Unchained Melody’ was in ‘Ghost.’ So it was like having three huge hit records right in a row at the end of the ’80s and we were back bigger than we were before. Movies make such a huge impression on songs, whether in the movies or on TV. ‘Unchained Melody’ was a hit in the ’60s and then they put it in the movie and it just became bigger than life.”
All entertainers or artistic creatives have a ‘watershed’ moment: a moment when they realize they are destined to share their talent, no matter how big or small. Medley recalls his ‘moment’ as if it were yesterday.
“When I was 15 in 1955, I heard Little Richard and it just changed my whole thought process of music,” he said. “It was like the first real rock ‘n’ roll I had heard. A couple of years later, I went to a Ray Charles concert and it just blew me away and knocked me out. I can remember coming away from that concert and thinking, ‘Man, somehow or someway I need to do that. If I could do that, that would be incredible.’ Not like Ray Charles (laughs) because I couldn’t do that, but I think that one concert was my watershed moment of, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to do this.’ ”
Oh, and about that aforementioned “most recognizable” voice … he chuckled at the thought and offered some sound advice for others in the business.
“I guess I can blame it on bad sinuses,” he said with a laugh. “I get asked all of the time, ‘Does someone else in your family sing like you?’ The truth is, none of them do. My mom was a singer. My brother can sing. But nobody has this baritone voice. I’m just blessed with it.
“I’ve always said, ‘Listen man, once you figure out why you are successful then it is time to quit the business.’ And, ‘If you don’t get nervous going onstage, you might as well stay home.’ ”
The Righteous Brothers appear at The Xcite Center at the Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pa., Feb. 18 at 8 p.m.; The State Theatre in New Brunswick, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m.; The Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.; The St. George Theatre in Staten Island, N.Y., Feb. 24 at 8 p.m.; and The Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, N.Y., Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.
For more about The Righteous Brothers, visit facebook.com/righteousbrothersofficial.
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