Unchained Melody

The Story Behind Unchained Melody

Unchained Melody is arguably the most popular song in history.  It is the most recorded song ever.  Unchained Melody was written in 1955 by Hy Zaret and put to music created by Alex North.  After it was rerecorded in 1965, Unchained Melody quickly became among the most recorded songs written in the 20th century.  It is believed that there are approximately 500 different versions of this song to date.

Unchained (the Movie)

The Unchained Melody song was intentionally written to be included in the 1955 move, Unchained, and was sung by Todd Duncan.  The idea behind the song was to portray the feelings of the movie character who was imprisoned and was constantly thinking about his lover whom he sorely missed. The film starred Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirch, a member of the Los Angeles Rams football team.  In that year there were 4 artists on the charts at the same time with the song. They were Roy Hamilton (#6), Al Hibbler (#3), an instrumental by Les Baxter (#1) and June Valli (#29).

Flynn and Green

One of the many examples of Unchained Melody’s popularity is a recording that was never meant to be released.  Instead, it was simply to be a performance featuring Jerome Flynn and Robson Green; these men are two actors who starred in Soldier, a military drama.  Even though Flynn and Green thought nothing more of their performance after it was over because they felt their singing skills were not on par with their acting skills, the audience who had seen their performance thought otherwise.  Soon after their performance, the television station that broadcast it received countless calls from viewers who wanted to buy the version sung by Flynn and Green.

Of course, at the time of initial public interest, they had no recorded version available.  This is why Simon Cowell, the judge and creator of American Idol and Pop Idol, approached the duo about recording their Unchained Melody version.  With great reluctance, they agreed and their recording hit platinum status within its first week in 1995 and held its number one place on UK charts for seven weeks. You may see the tune resurface on American Idol soon.

Righteous Brothers

In 1965, another popular Unchained Melody version was created by the group, The Righteous Brothers.  It hit the number four spot on music charts and held their placement for 12 weeks.  It is interesting to note that only one of The Righteous Brothers (Bobby Hatfield) actually performed on the record. Bill Medley was not on that studio recording.

When Jerry Zucker was filming the movie, Ghost, in 1990, he used their version for the hot and heavy lovemaking scene between the movie’s two costars, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore.  Thanks to the composing stylings of Maurice Jarre, an instrumental version of Unchained Melody was created and played in various important scenes of Ghost.

Due to the high-reaching success of this movie, which earned an Oscar because of Whoopi Goldberg’s performance, the Righteous Brothers were once again thrust into the spotlight by music lovers who could not get enough of their Unchained Melody version.  After the movie, Unchained Melody found its way to a number one spot once again.

Versions that Bombed

Although Unchained Melody has brought many music groups success, not every artist who did a remake succeeded.  For instance, when Heart sang their own version, it made the top 100, barely.  Whatever one may think about the song on a personal level, there is no denying that Unchained Melody has and still continues to make musicians quite a lot of money, especially for Paul McCartney who is the current owner to rights of Unchained Melody.