The Righteous Brothers are best-loved for their hit singles recorded between 1963 and 1968 that defined what became known as ” “blue-eyed soul.” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” in particular, remains the most played song in radio history. Baritone Bill Medley and tenor Bobby Hatfield also provided the romantic soundtrack for many a teenager’s backseat with songs like “Unchained Melody,” “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” “He,” “Ebb Tide,” and “Go Ahead And Cry.” While they endured, on and off again, as a live act, 1974’s “Rock and Roll Heaven” was their last chart success. Then, very unexpectedly, on November 5, 2003, nine months after the duo was belatedly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hatfield joined his musical brethren in that heavenly choir.
The Time of My Life: A Righteous Brothers’ Memoir is Medley’s story of his partnership with Hatfield as well as his many years as a solo artist. Naturally, he opens with his upbringing in Orange County, California in an atmosphere he describes as something akin to what was captured in American Graffiti or Happy Days, with Medley being something like the Fonz because of his interest in leather jackets and motorcycles. However, his father was nothing like Howard Cunningham, and this relationship wasn’t happy until after the younger Medley left home.
Thereafter, Medley recounts many familiar stories, such as how the Righteous Brothers got their name, how Phil Spector was briefly part of their studio team, why they became a part of television’s Shindig, and how Medley launched the duo’s recording career by writing their first regional hit, “Little Latin Lupe Lu.”
According to Medley, he was an important producer for many of the pair’s records and was essentially the driving force of the success of the Righteous Brothers. He explains this, in his words, by his having a very different “comfort zone” from Hatfield. As their popularity grew and the size of the arenas expanded, Hatfield simply wasn’t interested in riding the rock and roll tide. He’d have been happier in smaller clubs and staying closer to home. At least, that was true in the early ’70s before he went broke and badly needed the Righteous Brothers to return.
While most readers will be mainly interested in the inside story of the Righteous Brothers, Medley provides many anecdotes about fellow performers as well. He talks about his encounters with the Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, various country stars, and his friendship with Elvis Presley. Perhaps his most surprising stories involve Frank Sinatra who tutored Medley when he began his singing career in Las Vegas casinos. Of course, Medley recounts the high and low points of his solo work, most famously his 1987 duet with Jennifer Warnes, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from the soundtrack for Dirty Dancing.
Along the way, Medley is candid about his personal life, especially his relationships with wives and lovers. His greatest happiness, he says, has been fatherhood. He’s clearly a proud papa, pointing out, among other achievements of his brood, that his son Darrin became a singer himself for Paul Revere and the Raiders. Without question, the most poignant moment occurs the night Bobby Hatfield died in the Radisson Hotel in Kalamazoo, Michigan, just before a scheduled Righteous Brothers concert. It was Medley who discovered his partner’s body lying on the bed with the TV remote in his hand. It was after that Medley really learned just how ill Hatfield had been as a result of a lifetime of bad habits.
The Time of My Life: A Righteous Brothers’ Memoir is a fast-paced read that includes passages contributed by Medley’s friends and family that add other perspectives to the story. Like other such memoirs, it should deepen reader’s appreciation for the creation of some of their favorite songs. It also demonstrates again a singer’s career is much more than chart success. It takes talent, drive, luck, interpersonal skills, and some business savvy to maintain that lovin’ feeling decade after decade.