By Tricia Witkower
With Valentine’s Day this week, who better to talk to than the man with the famous baritone responsible for some of the greatest love songs to come out of America in the past five decades. I got the chance to talk with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers ahead of their show at Fantasy Springs this Friday, February 15.
About a year and a half ago I interviewed Medley for CV Weekly. Since I don’t want to ask any of the same questions and Valentine’s Day is coming up in a few days, I wrote all my questions with that theme in mind.
CVW: Your songs have made it into some of the sweetest romantic scenes of hit movies. What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?
BM: “Hmm. Make two children? I buy candy and flowers and jewelry at the right time. I try to be thoughtful all year long. (Thinks for a moment.) Maybe I’m a drag and maybe that’s why I’ve been divorced three times! (Chuckles.) On holidays, I’m usually out there working. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and anniversaries, we are often working. So I have to make up for it. I bring home a check, that’s the most romantic thing I do.”
CVW: As time has gone by, have any of your songs taken on a new meaning to you?
BM: “’Unchained Melody’ certainly has. It was written in the 50s for a movie called Unchained, about a guy in prison. We were big fans of Roy Hamilton, who had recorded it, and when we were recording our 4th album, Bobby wanted to put it on there. We did it not thinking it was such a romantic song, just a great song. Then they put it in Ghost and it just became bigger than life. The movie gave it a whole other meaning. It brought that song back to life and people started using it in weddings and anniversaries because it’s such a great love song. Loving Feeling kind of is what it is. It’s not a romantic song, but we’ve had people tell us that it was the song they played at their wedding. That surprises me because it’s more of a great divorce song! It’s really interesting about music that people hear “loving feeling” and that’s the vibe of the song to them and what they take out of it.”
CVW: What is the anatomy of a great love song?
BM: “Boy, you know…how amazing is it that all the years that music has been around that 99% of it is written about love? And how many different incredible ways people still find to talk about love. Sometimes I can’t imagine there’s a new way of putting it. The best love songs are the songs that, like Unchained Melody, are written so broadly that you can take from it what you need. It was written because of this, but that doesn’t mean you have to fall in love with it because of that. A great love song means different things to different people.”
CVW: What do you think is the most beautiful love song? You’re allowed to choose one of your own.
BM: “I could never choose one of ours even though other people probably would. We’ve been doing ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ as a dedication to our veterans lately. I feel our promise from America to our soldiers is that whoever goes to fight for us, we’ll be your bridge over troubled water and bring you home. I’m not sure we always do a great job of that. These people risk their lives so we can be free and then they get home and we forget about that. It’s such a great song that you can sing about the veterans or for your wife. One of my favorite songs is Elvis Presley’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.’ But maybe I’d say the best love song is Dolly Parton’s version of ‘I Will Always Love You.’”
CVW: As a native Southern Californian, is it special playing here?
BM: “I love working out there. My wife and I have owned houses out here and we visit a few times a year. It’s the greatest place. Here I get to be Bill Medley, not Bill Righteous. I love to perform in Southern California. I’m around Orange County so much and do benefits here so often, that I’ve kind of left OC alone so we never make money off our hometown. I do 2-3 benefits a year here and it’s always amazingly fun and emotional.”
CVW: Will your daughter be joining you on stage on Friday?
BM: “Absolutely. She just released a great CD called Vinyl Reimagined and she usually sings one of those songs. She’s really good – I wouldn’t have her join us if she weren’t!”
CVW: Of course you’re so talented, but do you feel you are lucky to be living the life you are and still performing your songs to huge crowds of fans?
BM: “It’s beyond luck. I’m blessed. The good news is I know I’m blessed. This is way out of my control how wonderful my life is and has been. I’m a very spiritual guy and so is Bucky. It just feels like God put this together and he’s certainly put the last 60 years of my life together. Saved me and gave me an incredible life to be able to take care of my family the way I’ve been able to and perform with my daughter and still be home a lot. The toughest thing in this industry is the balancing act between career and private life. Usually one gets screwed over and it’s usually the private life. My wife is understanding, she lets me go make a fool of myself. I’m really blessed.”
Go see the Righteous Brothers on Friday, February 15 at Fantasy Springs. You may purchase your tickets online or at the box office. https://www.fantasyspringsresort.com/entertainment/