As archived on 05-20-2004 by Dan Martin from:
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The purpose of this archive is not to steal, but rather to preserve. Over the last few
years the internet version of "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" has become all too common.
This archive is intended to act as a backup resource in the event the original disappears.
MORE HISTORY: UNCHAINED MELODY
One of the most romantic and durable modern songs to emerge from the world of film,
"Unchained Melody" had its roots in an obscure movie called "Unchained". The picture was
the brainchild of one man, Hal Barlett who wrote, produced, and directed this movie about
the life in the California Institute of Men, an "honor farm" state prison at Chino.
Hardly the stuff of romance.
The film was based on the career of Kenyon J Scudder, former supervisor at Chino, as
detailed in Scudder's book, "Prisoners Are People". Most of the scenes were actually
filmed on location at the prison. Former football player Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch played
the lead character, while other inmates, each with a story to tell, were played by Chester
Morris and Jerry Parris, among others. Television buffs will recognize Paris as a top TV
director who got his start playing Dick Van Dyke's buddy on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" of
the early '60's. Others in the cast included Peggy Knudsen and Barbara Hale, who appeared
as women visiting the prisoners. Hale went on to star as Della Street in the long running
"Perry Mason" television series.
The song "Unchained Melody" has fared considerably better than the film, which quickly
sank into obscurity. The movie was released in January 1955 with music by Alex North and
lyrics by Hy Zaret. As was required in order for the song to be eligible for Academy
Award nomination, the words and music were sung on the soundtrack by Al Hibbler, a blind
black singer. The song finished fifth in the 1955 voting for the Award. Hibbler's
version of the song and an instrumental recording by Les Baxter were released
simultaneously on April 9, 1955. Baxter's orchestral version on the Capitol label
actually went higher on the charts, reaching the Number One position and holding it for
two weeks in the course of a 21-week chart run. This was the only version of the song to
ever make it to the Number One position on the charts. Hibbler's version peaked at Number
Three with a 19-week run. Two other artists reached the charts that year. Roy Hamilton
reached Number Six and was on the charts for 16 weeks. June Valli was Number 29 for one
week. On the London charts, Jimmy Young topped at 1 and Liberace made it to number 20.
The song was revived briefly in 1963, when Vito and the Salutations recorded a version of
it that climbed the charts to number 66. This was the first "fast" version of the song.
The most popular revival would come two years later, in 1965, with a brand-new recording
by the Righteous Brothers, whose special sound helped "Unchained Melody" find a new
audience and reach the number 4 position. Not bad, considering that it was the "B-side"
of a 45 RPM record. It remained on the charts for 12 weeks. Three years later, the Sweet
Inspirations recorded the perennial favorite. On 9-5-1968, it reached number 73, for a
total of five weeks on the charts. And once again, in 1981, Heart took a turn with
"Unchained Melody", but by now it was a case of diminishing returns--their version made it
only to number 83.
"Unchained Melody" the love song that began as a prison movie theme, was most recently
used in the 1990 hit movie "Ghost", staring Parick Swayze and Demi Moore. The Righteous
Brothers' version is prominently used in the sexy pottery throwing love scene between the
film's two leads. Once again, the Righteous Brothers (Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley)
made it to the charts for 12 weeks. This was a new recording. It reached number 19 on
10-13-1990. A re-issue of the original was ussed for the movie and it reached number 13.
In 1995 Robson and Jerome from England opened at number 1 on 5-20-1995 and remained there
for 7 weeks. In 2002 Garth Gates from England opened at number 1 on March 18. 2002
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