Only the most momentous songs in pop history make it into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Top 40 of Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, and the Top 10 of the RIAA’s Top 365 Songs of the Century. But only one could achieve all that and be named the most-played song on American radio and television during the 20th century by the BMI. Its title? “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.’”
That remarkable set of achievements befits a song that completely changed the lives of vocal duo Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. They’d formed the Righteous Brothers in 1962, having recorded as the Paramours for the Smash label that same year. Now signed to Moonglow, the “brothers” made the Hot 100 twice in 1963, but neither “Little Latin Lupe Lu” nor “My Babe” could crack the Top 40, peaking at Nos.49 and 75 respectively.
Hotshot producer Phil Spector happened to see the duo performing at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on a bill with one of his acts, the Ronettes. He was so impressed that he bought the Righteous Brothers out of the remaining two and a half years of their contract with Moonglow and signed them to Philles, the label he’d formed with Lester Sill in 1961.
Longer than it seemed
“Lovin’ Feelin,’” written by the A-list team of Spector and husband and wife Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and imbued with Spector’s undeniable production genius, was a melodrama of epic proportions. So much so, in fact, that Spector lied about its running time: the track’s duration on the Philles label was listed as 3’05”, so as not to deter disc jockeys from playing what was actually a recording of 3’45”.
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It needed every one of those seconds to wring out all of the emotion in Medley and Hatfield’s tortured, back-and-forth vocalising. Broadcasters welcomed it with open arms, and so did the public. The song made its debut on the Hot 100 of December 12, 1964 at No.77, and was No.1 in the US by February 6, replacing Petula Clark’s “Downtown” for a two-week run. It did the same in the UK that week, succeeding the Moody Blues‘ “Go Now.” Just to underline the power that brought it all those accolades we mentioned at the beginning, the indestructible ballad returned to the Top 20 in versions by Dionne Warwick in 1969 and Daryl Hall & John Oates in 1980.
Buy or stream “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” on the Righteous Brothers’ Gold compilation.