FOLSOM — The Righteous Brothers can rightfully claim to have fathered the genre “blue-eyed soul,” and as the singer who held down the low-end of the duo, Bill Medley’s voice — raw and emotional — is a virtual trademark in popular music.
In the mid-1960s the Righteous Brothers became a fixture on Top Forty radio, with “You’re My Soul and Inspiration,” “Unchained Melody” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” the most played song in American radio history and more. For his Three Stages performance next month, the Grammy award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee will be joined on stage by his daughter McKenna Medley.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Orange County’s Santa Ana, Bill Medley always had a passion for music but it wasn’t until he heard the music of Ray Charles and Little Richard that the idea of making music for a living seemed feasible. “When I heard Little Richard,” Medley reflects, “I knew I wanted to do that. When I heard Ray Charles, I knew I needed to do that.”
Medley formed a local group called The Paramours, and was introduced to Hatfield, who led The Variations. But one night they put their voices together and the result was magic. Combining Medley’s unmistakable baritone with Bobby Hatfield’s forceful tenor and the density of Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” production, the duo defied traditional music labels with air play on both pop and R&B radio stations.
After many hits with Spector’s label, The Righteous Brothers decided to produce their songs themselves and the first single under Verve Records was “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” which Medley masterly produced. The song topped the charts for three weeks, one week longer than “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”
Their partnership lasted four decades. Medley went on his own in the late 1960s for six years but in 1974 the duo reunited and resumed their hit-making ways with the prophetic “Rock and Roll Heaven.” In 1987 Medley scored a monumental hit with another duettist, Jennifer Warnes, on “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” for the film “Dirty Dancing.” The song earned an Oscar, a Golden Globe, Video of The Year and a Grammy. The soundtrack became one of the most successful since “Saturday Night Fever,” selling 14 million copies and once again put Medley at the top of the Billboard charts. In 1990 the Righteous Brothers classic version of “Unchained Melody” appeared in the hit film “Ghost” and ran all the way up the Billboard charts, which introduced yet another new generation to the works of this talented duo.
On March 10, 2003, The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, just months before Bobby Hatfield’s unexpected death. In 2007 Bill Medley went back into the studio to record an album that not only honors the legacy of their historic partnership, but also reveals the artistry of Medley in his own right. “Damn Near Righteous” pays tribute to a number of legendary mentors and peers, including Hatfield.
David Wild of Rolling Stone Magazine, said of Medley’s new album, “This gritty singer has delivered his finest solo album and the best thing he’s done since the Sixties, period.”
The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 7. Tickets are $39 to $55 with premium tickets available for $65. Purchase them online at threestages.net or from Three Stages ticket office at (916) 608-6888 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Three Stages is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, facing East Bidwell Street.