Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Unchained Melody"

"Unchained Melody" is one of the most recorded songs of all time. In fact, there have been over 1500 recordings of the song. The Righteous Brothers' version went to no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remains so popular that many people probably think the song originated with them. What is often forgotten is that "Unchained Melody" originated with a movie.

"Unchained Melody" was written by composer Alex Noth and lyricist Hy Zaret for the film Unchained (1955). Unchained was a somewhat forgettable prison film most notable for featuring Barbara Hale (later of Perry Mason) and Jerry Paris (later of The Dick Van Dyke Show). The fact that "Unchained Melody" originated with the film not only explains its rather unusual title, but also its lyrics. The lyrics are sung from the point of view of someone who is separated from the one he loves (quite simply, he is in prison).

While Unchained was somewhat forgettable, "Unchained Melody" certainly was not. In the film it was sung by Todd Duncan. In 1955, the year Unchained was released, three different versions of the song reached the top ten of the Billboard singles chart (ones by Lex Baxter, Roy Hamilton, and Al Hibbler). Lex Baxter's version hit number one on the Billboard singles chart. Given the song's popularity, it should come as no surprise that "Unchained Melody" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It might come as a surprise that it actually lost the award, but then it must be considered that it lost to another well known standard, "Love is a Many Splendoured Thing" (from the film of the same name).

For those who have never heard it, here is the very original version, sung by Todd Duncan, in a scene from Unchained.

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