‘Brown Eyed Woman’: A Solo Sojourn For Righteous Brother Bill Medley
Medley’s first solo single ‘I Can’t Make It Alone,’ written by Carole King, missed the chart, but he fared somewhat better with the follow-up.
The heyday of the Righteous Brothers will always be recorded as the mid-1960s era in which they cut their signature hits such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin‘ Feelin’” and “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.” Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield’s 1970s reunion, after six years apart, produced the remarkable new success “Rock and Roll Heaven.” There was a third phase, too, in the incredible, Ghost-inspired new audience for “Unchained Melody” at the turn of the 1990s.
But in between those first two periods, the two singers embarked on some interesting new adventures. Hatfield teamed up with Jimmy Walker from the Knickerbockers (best known for the 1965 hit “Lies”) and continued to use the Righteous Brothers name. Medley, by contrast, went out on his own, still on the MGM label, and released a series of singles to moderate chart response.
The first of those was “I Can’t Make It Alone,” which despite being composed by Carole King, barely grazed the Hot 100, reaching only No.95. But Medley made somewhat more of an impression with the follow-up “Brown Eyed Woman,” which entered the Billboard survey on August 3, 1968 at No.80. This was the week in which the Doors smashed to No. 1 with “Hello, I Love You,” the Beach Boys were rising fast with “Do It Again” and there were competing versions of “Mr. Bojangles” on the chart by Jerry Jeff Walker and Bobby Cole.
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“Brown Eyed Woman” carried another redoubtable hitmaking credit, in the shape of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and was produced by Mann and Medley. It spent a few weeks climbing the survey before coming to a stop at No.43, logging 11 weeks on the chart. It was a testament to Medley’s credentials as a blue-eyed soul vocalist of distinction that the single actually rated slightly higher on the soul chart, on which it reached No.37.
The single appeared on Bill’s first solo album, titled Bill Medley 100%, which made a brief showing at No.188 in the US. A third single, “Peace Brother Peace,” hit No.48 on the Hot 100, but it was clear that both “brothers” would find the going quite challenging outside of their old comfort zone. Medley’s second MGM album Soft & Soulful followed in 1969 and went to No.152, before he departed for a new solo deal on A&M which produced several albums, but no chart action.
Nevertheless, his continuing popularity as a live entertainer, particularly in Las Vegas, saw him through to his reunion with Hatfield for 1974’s Give It To The People. That album, on the Haven imprint via Capitol, featured “Rock and Roll Heaven,” the song that gave them their dramatic top three comeback.
Buy or stream “Brown Eyed Woman” on the Righteous Brothers’ Gold compilation.