Righteous Brother Hatfield Dead at 63
Bobby Hatfield, one half of the chart-topping Righteous Brothers (“Unchained Melody,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”), died Wednesday night of undetermined causes at a Michigan hotel, his manager said. He was 63.
The singer’s body was discovered in his bed at 7 p.m. EST, a half-hour before Hatfield and his partner of 42 years, Bill Medley, were to perform in Miller Auditorium on the campus of Western Michigan University, manager David Cohen told the Associated Press.
“It’s a shock, a real shock,” said Cohen, adding that Medley was “broken up. He’s not even coherent.”
Hatfield’s body was removed from the hotel at about 10 p.m. and taken to Lansing, Mich., for an autopsy, Joe Hakim, an executive with the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo, told the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Speaking to the audience at 7:05 p.m., Miller Auditorium executive director Bill Biddle announced that the 7:30 p.m. show had been canceled due to “a personal emergency of an unspecified nature.”
According to Hakim, Hatfield had been sleeping most of the day in his room and did not answer a wakeup call at about 6 p.m. At that point, hotel staff and authorities entered the room and discovered the body.
Robert Lee Hatfield was born in Beaver Dam, Wis., on Aug. 10, 1940. When he was 4, his family moved to Anaheim, Calif., and in high school, Hatfield organized music groups in between helping his parents with their dry cleaning business, says AP.
Though he excelled at sports (and considered becoming a pro basketball player), Hatfield put together a band and played at bars and at proms while attending Cal State Long Beach.
He teamed with Medley and three others in 1962 to form the Paramours. According to the Righteous Brothers Web site, an African American Marine called out during one of their performances, “That was righteous, brothers!”
Thus, a new name — and a hot new blue-eyed duo — was born. Their first album came out in 1963, followed the next year by what would become their signature single, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” which has since been cited by numerous sources as the most-programmed song in radio history, notes AP.
The Brothers split up in 1968 but reunited in 1974 and scored the No. 1 hit “Rock and Roll Heaven.” In 1990, a re-recorded version of their “Unchained Melody” was featured in the movie “Ghost” and earned the duo a Grammy nomination.
Earlier this year, Hatfield and Medley were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
They were righteous, all right.