The Righteous Brothers were originally an American musical duo of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. They began performing together in 1962 in the Los Angeles area as part of a five-member group called the Paramours, but adopted the name “The Righteous Brothers” when they embarked on their recording career as a duo. Their most active recording period was in the 1960s and 70s, and although the duo was inactive for some years, Hatfield and Medley reunited in 1981 and continued to perform until Hatfield’s death in 2003. The music they performed is sometimes dubbed “blue-eyed soul”.
Hatfield and Medley had contrasting vocal ranges, which helped them to create a distinctive sound as a duet, but also strong vocal talent individually that allowed them to perform as soloists. Medley sang the low parts with his bass-baritone voice, with Hatfield taking the higher register vocals with his tenor voice.
They had their first major hit with the 1964 song “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”, produced by Phil Spector and often considered one of his finest works. Other notable hits include “Ebb Tide”, “Soul and Inspiration”, “Rock and Roll Heaven”, and in particular, their version of “Unchained Melody”. Both Hatfield and Medley also had for a time their own solo careers. In 2016, Medley re-formed The Righteous Brothers with Bucky Heard and they continue to perform as a duo.
The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Rolling Stone ranked them No. 16 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.
Hatfield died at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan on November 5, 2003. He was found by Bill Medley and the Righteous Brothers’ road manager Dusty Hanvey. A security guard let them into Hatfield’s room after he had failed to show up at the concert venue when expected. He apparently died in his sleep, hours before a scheduled Righteous Brothers concert. In January 2004, a toxicology report concluded that cocaine use had precipitated a fatal heart attack. The initial autopsy found that Hatfield had advanced coronary disease. The medical examiner stated that “in this case, there was already a significant amount of blockage in the coronary arteries.”