The Righteous Brothers Bill Medley Interview…
His Legacy, Faith, and Friendships
Bill Medley is without a doubt one of the most significant voices in popular music history. He is most noted for being half of the unmistakable duo The Righteous Brothers. In the midst of the 1960’s, the duo became a fixture on the Billboard charts as well as Top 40 radio with timeless songs like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “Unchained Melody,” and “You’re My Soul and Inspiration.” These songs have shaped popular culture tremendously, they’ve been enjoyed by generations of fans, and they’re certainly still relevant today.
Since 2003 Bill Medley has had a very successful solo career. He embarked on this journey after his musical partner and the other half of the duo Bobby Hatfield passed away.
As Bill spoke to me over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, I could hear pure magic and a God given talent. You could tell from how he spoke that he didn’t have to strain his voice when he sang — that it just naturally came out. It was also inspiring and encouraging to speak with a musician of his caliber who, at 73, still loves what he does and is very grateful and pleased to still be doing it. Bill Medley has won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Video Of The Year Award, and a Grammy — all for his collaboration with Jennifer Warnes on the song “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” from the 1987 film Dirty Dancing. In March of 2003, The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bill is now performing select special tour dates and engagements — one of which will land in my hometown of Franklin, Tennessee at the newly renovated, historic Franklin Theatre on Saturday, March 22nd; and I will be there to witness the musical legend live.
Is this your first time coming to Franklin? Have you seen the historic Franklin Theatre before?
No, I haven’t seen the inside yet. I have been through and viewed the outside. I have a couple of Nashville guys in my band, and they have been telling me that I should perform at the Franklin Theatre; that it is a wonderful venue. It’s kind of a showcase for my daughter. McKenna is my daughter: she is 26, she is moving to Nashville, and she is a country-rock singer. She is really good, and she has been traveling with me singing “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” with me — as well as singing her own original songs. I am looking forward to spending some time in the beautiful town of Franklin, Tennessee and having a showcase for my daughter McKenna.
Does comedian Will Ferrell’s dad Lee still perform in your band?
Not at the moment. Lee Ferrell is not on the road this tour. He has had some health problems, and he is getting over that. He made a decision to stay close to home, and I don’t blame him. He and I have dinner about once a week. We have been friends and band mates since 1963. He has been my musical director and conductor, road manager for a long time. I remember Will Ferrell when he was just little Will; now he is Big Will. Lee is a great piano player and sax player; I am sure he will be back out with us real soon.
On your last album you recorded with the late Phil Everly. He had a home about four blocks from mine. What was it like recording with him?
I can’t tell you how hard his passing hit me. I can’t quite explain how important Phil Everly was to the music industry and how important the Everly Brothers were to music in general. Personally he was a really sweet man and great guy. When I was a kid, I only listened to African-American pop rock music, and there were only three white acts I liked at the time. That was Elvis Presley, Dion and The Belmonts, and The Everly Brothers. I just couldn’t believe how those two guys sang together so perfectly. It’s not so amazing today because they can’t get you in the studio, and they can electronically put you together and move things around. In the days of The Everly Brothers, they sang live in the studio with their band. The Everly Brothers influenced The Beatles, The Rightous Brothers, you name it. Every group that has sung in the last 50 years have been influenced by the Everly Brothers. I love Phil and Don Everly, and Phil’s passing was a tremendous loss.
The Righteous Brothers music is timeless; your music is still relevant after so many years. How do you feel about that?
It is wonderful. I can’t believe I am 73 years old I am still touring. I show up to sing a bunch of hits and people still show up to hear them. It is a real blessing. You never know what records are going to do when you record them. I am really amazed, and it is a true blessing that The Righteous Brothers — Bobby and I — have impacted people the way we did.
Being called The Righteous Brothers, did faith in God influence your career at all?
Yes, I give God all the credit because I know I am not smart enough to put this life of mine together without Him. Every time something wonderful happens I just close my eyes and thank God for doing this for me. I thank Him for giving me the talent and the opportunity to share it.