'Unchained Melody' - the Song Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'Unchained Melody' - the Song

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Oh, my love, my darling,
I've hungered for your touch,
A long, lonely time.
Time goes by so slowly
and time can do so much.
Are you still mine?
I need your love, I need your love.
God speed your love to me.
Lonely ...

The number one hit for Gareth Gates in 2002 was yet another version of this popular song, possibly the most successful song in music history. The melody was written almost 50 years previously by songwriter/composer Alex North1. Lyricist Hy Zaret then added the words and 'Unchained Melody' was born.

It was first performed in the 1955 prison movie Unchained by baritone Todd Duncan. The words of the song are particularly relevant from the point of view of the man in jail. The time drags so slowly (for him) and he wonders if his true love is still his, or has she found another? His world stays the same, day in, day out. To some people, the song is a dreary dirge, while to others it is the epitome of romance, the lover wanting the loved one so much that it occupies all their waking thoughts.

An instrumental version recorded by the Les Baxter Orchestra took the tune to its first number one in the US. Also in 1955, the flamboyant pianist Liberace appeared at number 20 in the UK chart with his version, incidentally his only UK chart success. Since then, it has been recorded by no fewer than 670 artists, making it one of the most covered songs ever, and arguably the one with the most versions to become chart hits. Some well-known artists made a big mistake in trying to make the song their own; others simply copied the original hoping for the same magic.

Undoubtedly the most popular version was recorded by the Righteous Brothers in 1965, originally as a 'B' side which reached number 4 in the UK charts and stayed in the chart for 12 weeks. In 1990, director Jerry Zucker used this version in the film Ghost. At the beginning of a love scene the original record is selected on a juke box as the female star (Demi Moore) is sitting at her pottery wheel, unable to sleep. She is joined by the male star (Patrick Swayze) and an unforgettable romantic encounter takes place, the hot love-making scene receiving vote after vote in polls such as 'Favourite Romantic Scene in a Film'. A slow instrumental version is also played throughout the film at strategic points, courtesy of composer Maurice Jarre. The success of the film (it won an Oscar for co-star Whoopi Goldberg's performance) prompted a revival of the Righteous Brothers' recording and the re-release went straight to number one with the singing duo even making a live appearance on Top of the Pops a quarter of a century after their original hit.

Possibly the most controversial recording was one which was never intended to be released, but was originally merely a performance by two actors in a show on a television programme. Stars of the ITV military drama Soldier, Soldier, Robson Green and Jerome Flynn, went on stage and sang the song. They thought that was the end of it; neither of them were great singers and preferred acting. The viewing audience, however, had other plans, and the television station was inundated with calls from fans wishing to buy the Robson and Jerome version. As it didn't exist, the pair were reluctantly persuaded (by promoter and Pop Idol judge Simon Cowell2) to record the song and it became the fastest-selling single of all time, going platinum in a week. It stayed at number one in the charts in the UK for seven weeks in 1995.

A steel band played a unique version of the tune as three children unveiled the Jubilee Tapestry on Buckingham Palace on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee on 4 June, 2002.

Not all popular artists got it right. The version by rock group Heart barely made it into the top 100.

There is no doubt that 'Unchained Melody' will continue making money - especially for Sir Paul McCartney who now owns the rights to the song.

Some Artists who have Recorded the Song

1North composed music for films such as Spartacus and A Streetcar Named Desire.2Cowell was also responsible for Gareth Gates recording the song.

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