Full name William Thomas Medley; born September 19, 1940, in Santa Ana, Calif. Addresses: c/o RCA Records, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036.
Bill Medley first rose to stardom during the 1960s as one-half of the Righteous Brothers--the duo that became the epitome of the phrase "blue-eyed soul." With partner Bobby Hatfield, he was responsible for hits like "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Soul and Inspiration." When Medley broke up with Hatfield in 1968, however, his career languished despite boosts from occasional Righteous Brothers reunions. But in 1987 he scored a huge success with singer Jennifer Warnes in their duet from the film Dirty Dancing --"The Time of My Life."
Born William Thomas Medley on September 19, 1940, in Santa Ana, California, he displayed an interest in music early in his life. Despite the fact that every attempt by his parents to get him to play an instrument--saxophone, trumpet, and piano--ended with Medley's protests after a few lessons, he was active in his church choir as a young boy. His devotion to this mode of musical expression lasted until his last few years of high school, when he began to listen to rock and roll. In his senior year, Medley formed a band with some of his classmates; they played at school dances and small clubs.
Medley was still playing those small clubs in Southern California when he made the acquaintance of Bobby Hatfield in 1962. The two men quickly became friends and decided to team up in their musical efforts. Despite their white middle-class backgrounds, they called themselves the Righteous Brothers and chose the genres of rhythm and blues and soul to express their talents. They signed with the small company Moonglow Records, and their debut album, The Righteous Brothers, was released in 1963. Medley and Hatfield soon attracted a following, predominantly among black music fans, but enjoyed only moderate success with wider audiences. They did, however, score a small hit with the single "Little Latin Lupe Lu."
The Righteous Brothers' careers received a huge boost when they became involved with record producer extraordinaire Phil Spector. Spector recruited Medley and Hatfield for his own recording label, Philles, and in 1965 the duo released its biggest smash, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." Geoffrey Stokes described the classic recording thus in the book Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll : "Medley's baritone--warm, sexy, almost relaxed--sang the opening verse; Hatfield's tenor--brassy, strangled, passionate--entered on the chorus. Its highly charged emotionalism seemed to prod Medley into passion of his own. Behind their inflamed call and response, the strings soared and dipped.... After the crescendo, the silence, broken only by single notes sustained on a lone base, was as sudden as a plunge off ... a cliff. But this wasn't the end, merely a gathering of strength so the whole process could be repeated--on, if possible, a level of even greater intensity. Whenever 'Lovin' Feelin' ' came on the radio," Stokes concluded, "it reduced, for its three-minute span, the Supremes to little girls, the Beatles to fey pretenders." Needless to say, "Lovin' Feelin' " rose to the top of the charts.
Medley and Hatfield had other successful singles on the Philles label, including "Unchained Melody," "Ebb Tide," and "Just Once in My Life," but like many other Spector protegees, they felt a lack of artistic control over their work. By 1966 the Righteous Brothers had left Philles for Verve Records, and they scored a hit the same year with the mournful love ballad "Soul and Inspiration."
But a short two years later, Medley disbanded the duo, feeling that it was restricting both his creativity and Hatfield's. Medley went on in pursuit of a solo career, and Hatfield--obviously of a different opinion--retained the "Righteous Brothers" name and recruited a new partner. Neither fared well in comparison with their previous status as a team, but Medley put out several albums on the MGM label, such as Someone Is Standing Outside and Nobody Knows before moving to A & M Records in 1971. He also proved a popular attraction on the nightclub circuit.
In 1974, however, Medley reunited with Hatfield; they made their second debut on national television on "The Sonny and Cher Show." Though brief, the partnership lasted long enough to give them another top ten hit, "Rock and Roll Heaven." Later reunion appearances in the 1980s produced no hits but attracted attention due to the nostalgia for 1960s music that swept the United States.
But Medley finally experienced a great popular achievement without Hatfield in 1987. Ironically, however, it came through another duet performance. With pop and country artist Jennifer Warnes, he recorded "Time of My Life" on the RCA label. The theme from the motion picture Dirty Dancing , the song was helped by the film's huge box office sales and rose to number one on the Billboard chart. A critical success as well, "Time of My Life" garnered Medley and Warnes a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal. Medley also went on tour with many of the other artists featured on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack album, and his newfound celebrity has sparked further interests in Righteous Brothers concert appearances.
by Elizabeth Thomas
Bill Medley's Career
Vocalist of pop and soul; solo performer in southern California night clubs, c. 1960-62; member of duo the "Righteous Brothers," 1962-68, and occasional reunions; solo and duo recording artist and concert performer, 1968--. Appeared on television programs, including the "Sonny and Cher Show" and "American Bandstand."
Bill Medley's Awards
Grammy Award, 1987, for Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, for "Time of My Life."
- Singles with Hatfield, except as noted
- "Little Latin Lupe Lu," Moonglow, 1963.
- "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," Philles, 1965.
- "Unchained Melody," Philles, 1965.
- "Ebb Tide," Philles, 1965.
- "Just Once in My Life," Philles, 1965.
- "Soul and Inspiration," Verve, 1966.
- "Rock and Roll Heaven," Haven, 1974.
- (With Jennifer Warnes) "The Time of My Life," RCA, 1987.
- LPs with Hatfield
- Righteous Brothers Moonglow, 1963.
- Some Blue-Eyed Soul Moonglow, 1965.
- You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' Philles, 1965.
- Just Once in My Life Philles, 1965.
- Back to Back Philles, 1965.
- Soul and Inspiration Verve, 1966.
- Go Ahead and Cry Verve, 1966.
- Sayin' Somethin' Verve, 1967.
- Greatest Hits Verve, 1967.
- Greatest Hits Volume 2 Verve, 1967.
- Souled Out Verve, 1967.
- Standards Verve, 1967.
- One for the Road Verve, 1968.
- Give It to the People Haven, 1974.
- Sons of Mrs. Righteous Haven, 1975.
- Solo LPs
- 100% Bill Medley MGM, 1968.
- Soft and Soulful MGM, 1969.
- Gone MGM, 1970.
- Someone Is Standing Outside MGM, 1970.
- Nobody Knows MGM, 1970.
- A Song for You A & M, 1972.
- Wings A & M, c. 1972.
- Smile A & M, 1973.
- Sweet Thunder Liberty, 1980.
- The Best of Bill Medley MCA, 1989.