Righteous Brother Bill Medley Talks About The Time Of His Life
He is one of the voices behind the most played record in the history of American radio: "You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.'" If you’ve had the time of your life, you may have been dancing with Patrick Swayze, but the track’s timeless male vocals belong to none other than Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers. Today, Bill Medley never thought he would be performing without his original second half, Bobby Hatfield, who passed away in 2003. The blue-eyed soul brother once believed his singing career would be put to rest with the passing of Hatfield. "I thought I was pretty much done, but fans and friends convinced me that people still wanted to hear that music," Medley says in a phone interview.
And while Medley knows that his longtime, original partner is irreplaceable, he credits his current partner, Bucky Heard, with doing a “phenomenal job” filling the big shoes that Hatfield left behind and keeping The Righteous Brother's sound alive. Medley hopes that Hatfield is looking down with pride at the redesigned Righteous Brothers. Medley believes that Hatfield would understand his reasons to carry on The Righteous Brother's music due to the original pair parting ways in 1968 and Hatfield then reforming the group on his own, according to Medley.
Looking back, Medley does not regret the time the original group spent apart. "I think it was good for both of us. I think we both grew a lot. We were separated for six years." Medley continues to say that the separation caused both of the original Righteous Brothers to grow and reunite in 1974 with a more "comfortable feel." Ebb and flow made the two stronger together and the hit record "Rock and Roll Heaven" made its debut. Two years after the original duo reunited, tragedy struck, and Medley's ex-wife passed away. The singer had to change hats from musician to full-time father.
Despite trials and tribulations, audiences of various cultural backgrounds welcomed the group warmly, especially at a time in history when a heated political climate allowed for races to be divided rather than united. Medley and I spoke about the musicians being coined blue-eyed soul brothers, a designation that was given to Medley and Hatfield by African American disc jockeys and one that Medley looks to with honor.
"Being that the label has a racial connotation to it, does that bother you?" I ask.
"No. It was a huge honor that the black audience was accepting us, and playing us. We were emulating the great black acts."
The Righteous Brothers expanded upon the talent of iconic African American artists early in their career, and the success saga continued including big screen soundtracks. A solo Bill Medley’s pipes lent to mega box office titles like “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” with Jennifer Warnes in Dirty Dancing (1987), and together The Righteous Brothers topped charts with influential tunes like “Unchained Melody” in Ghost (1990) and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” in Top Gun (1986).
“Two of your hit songs are tied to the late Patrick Swayze and his renowned blockbusters. Did you have any relationship with the late actor?”
“I got to know him during award shows. I certainly got to know that he was a wonderful guy,” Medley reminisces.
Medley’s positive sentiments for Swayze are similar to his view on the very song that is the American anthem for a life lived, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life," his song.
“It is remarkable,” the baritone singer says on the success of the famous song. “It is the song that keeps on giving. It is always a real blessing to be coupled up with that song. It is just remarkable, just remarkable.”
Surprisingly, if Medley’s musical heartstrings tug hardest at any of his songs, he chooses “Just Once In My Life,” as his favorite. In all fairness, the legendary hit maker says that choosing a favorite song is always tough because it is like your children and you do not like any of them, he chuckles.
With the hits we spoke of and the ones we did not, the longevity, and the withstanding of tumultuous grounds throughout a career spanning generations, The Righteous Brothers rightfully earned a spot in the house of Rock and Roll royalty as 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. According to Medley, though, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a door that once looked bleak in opening for the blue-eyed soul vocalists.
“We did not think we would get in the hall of fame because we were kept out [in the past]. It was a political thing that five or six of us were hung up in.”
But when the doors of rock and roll royalty eventually swung open for The Righteous Brothers with induction from Billy Joel, the soul trailblazers could not have accepted the honor with more gratitude. The induction came the same year Hatfield passed away and may have been the only silver lining Medley saw in 2003. “When it came around, it was really wonderful. Going into the hall of fame was a stamp of approval,” the California native continues. The Righteous Brothers bring their fans joy through the universal language of music; Medley knows that The Righteous Brothers did their job. To Bill Medley, being a household member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame means: "You were here, and you made a difference."
And The Righteous Brothers are still here. Two on stage and one in spirit performing at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park May 5.
The Rocksino is known for its Vegas experience albeit its Ohio address. Coincidentally, The Righteous Brothers have performed many times in Sin City, and have a current residency at Harrah’s Showroom in Las Vegas, so the Rocksino should be like a second home to the stars. With all the talk of Vegas, I wonder if the upcoming show will have any “old” Vegas influence to it. We all know that the best things in life are from back in the day, right?
“The Righteous Brothers kind of came up admiring the Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Jerry Lewis [kind],” Medley answers. It is then safe to assume that any old-time Vegas influence has long been flowing through the performers' blood. Rest assured because Medley says The Righteous Brothers “know why the audience is there” and yes, they perform all of the hits.
All those hits were not born without wise lessons and old fashion grit. Bill Medley is a classic, but certainly not an antiquated performer, who is unafraid to mimic the advice of conventional stars like Lady Gaga. I ask Mr. Medley to offer his guidance on how dream chasers can make their dreams come true because we all know he did just that...in one of the most significant ways possible. After all, it is 2019 and so many fans have not lost their loving feelings for The Righteous Brothers.
“I think it is pretty simple as tough as it is,” the original Righteous Brother says. “I think Lady Gaga just said this…you have to believe in yourself and believe in that dream and just do not stop, keep going after it, keep going after it. And if you are true to yourself and true to your talent, good things will happen.”
While the Grammy winner wants everyone to pursue their dreams, he also sprinkles realistic expectations on his sound advice. “It does not necessarily mean you will be a big star, but good things will happen.”
I jokingly say to the singer, “Not everyone can be as big as The Righteous Brothers.”
In a fashion that is all heart and all humble, Mr. Medley responds:
“No they do not [have to be as successful as The Righteous Brothers] as long as you are happy and feel successful in your mind and heart.”
And there you have it.
Felicia is a celebrity and inspirational writer who grew up in Parma, Ohio.