Bobby Hatfield of Righteous Brothers dead at 63

Friday, November 7, 2003

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Bobby Hatfield, who with partner Bill Medley pioneered "blue-eyed soul" as the Righteous Brothers with hits like "Unchained Melody" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," died Wednesday night of undetermined causes at a hotel, his manager said. He was 63.

Hatfield's body was discovered in his bed at 6 p.m., a half-hour before the duo was to perform at Miller Auditorium on the Western Michigan University campus, manager David Cohen said.

"It's a shock, a real shock," Cohen said during a telephone interview. Medley, who teamed with Hatfield 42 years ago, was "broken up. He's not even coherent," Cohen said.

Hatfield's body was taken from the hotel about 9 p.m. directly to Lansing, where an autopsy was to be performed, Joe Hakim, an executive with the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo, told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Miller Auditorium executive director Bill Biddle told the audience at 6:05 p.m. that the 6:30 p.m. show had been canceled because of "a personal emergency of an unspecified nature."

Hatfield had been sleeping most of the day in his room, Hakim said. When he didn't answer a wakeup call about 5 p.m., hotel staff and authorities entered the room and found Hatfield's body.

Their signature 1964 single, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," has been cited by numerous sources as the most-programmed song in radio history. Later 1960s hits included "Soul and Inspiration" and "Unchained Melody."

Robert Lee Hatfield was born Aug. 10, 1940 in Beaver Dam, Wis. His family moved to Anaheim, Calif., when he was 4.

Hatfield organized singing and instrumental groups in high school while helping his parents with their dry cleaning business.

An avid athlete, Hatfield considered a career in professional baseball, but found his true calling in music -- a love he pursued while attending Long Beach State University, where he formed a band.

Hatfield teamed up with Medley in 1962 as part of a five-piece group called The Paramours. According to the Righteous Brothers Web site, a black Marine called out during one of their performances, "That was righteous, brothers!" They renamed themselves the Righteous Brothers before the release of their first album in 1963.

After splitting up in 1968, they reunited in 1974 and returned to the top of the charts with "Rock and Roll Heaven."

"Unchained Melody" was featured in the 1990 movie "Ghost," and a re-recorded version earned Hatfield and Medley a Grammy nomination.

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