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Unchained Melody
from the Motion Picture "Unchained"
Lyric by Hy Zaret
Music by Alex North
(c)1955 (renewed) Frank Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Hy Zaret
ASCAP 1942

Born on August 27, 1904 in New York, NY, Hy Zaret is an accomplished Composer, Author and Publisher.
Click Here to read Hy's entire Bio...
Alex North
Born on 4 December 1910 in Chester, Pennsylvania, Alex North was one of the most respected composers ever to work in film.
Click Here to read Alex's entire Bio...
History written by: Charlie Harvey
Reprinted with Permission

One of the most romantic and durable modern songs to emerge from the world of film, "Unchained Melody" had its roots in an obscure movie called "Unchained". The picture was the brainchild of one man, Hal Bartlett who wrote, produced, and directed this movie about the life in the California Institute of Men, an "honor farm" state prison at Chino. Hardly the stuff of romance.

The film was based on the career of Kenyon J Scudder, former supervisor at Chino, as detailed in Scudder's book, "Prisoners Are People". Most of the scenes were actually filmed on location at the prison. Former football player Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch played the lead character, while other inmates, each with a story to tell, were played by Chester Morris and Jerry Paris, among others. Television buffs will recognize Paris as a top TV director who got his start playing Dick Van Dyke's buddy on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" of the early '60's. Others in the cast included Peggy Knudsen and Barbara Hale, who appeared as women visiting the prisoners. Hale went on to star as Della Street in the long running "Perry Mason" television series.

The song "Unchained Melody" has fared considerably better than the film, which quickly sank into obscurity. The movie was released in January 1955 with music by Alex North and lyric by Hy Zaret. As was required in order for the song to be eligible for Academy Award nomination, the words and music were sung on the soundtrack by Al Hibbler, a blind black singer. The song finished fifth in the 1955 voting for the Award. Hibbler's version of the song and an instrumental recording by Les Baxter were released simultaneously on April 9, 1955. Baxter's orchestral version on the Capitol label actually went higher on the charts, reaching the Number One position and holding it for two weeks in the course of a 21-week chart run. This was the only version of the song to ever make it to the Number One position on the U.S. charts. Hibbler's version peaked at Number Three with a 19-week run. Two other artists reached the charts that year. Roy Hamilton reached Number Six and was on the charts for 16 weeks. June Valli was Number 29 for one week. On the London charts, Jimmy Young topped at 1 and Liberace made it to number 20.

The song was revived briefly in 1963, when Vito and the Salutations recorded a version of it that climbed the charts to number 66. This was the first "fast" version of the song. The most popular revival would come two years later, in 1965, with a brand-new recording by the Righteous Brothers, who, under the helm of legendary producer Phil Spector and his renowned 'wall of sound,' helped "Unchained Melody" find a new audience and reach the number 4 position. Not bad, considering that it was the "B-side" of a 45 RPM record. It remained on the charts for 13 weeks. Three years later, the Sweet Inspirations recorded the perennial favorite. On 9-5-1968, it reached number 73, for a total of five weeks on the charts. And once again, in 1981, Heart took a turn with "Unchained Melody", but by now it was a case of diminishing returns--their version made it only to number 83.

"Unchained Melody" the love song that began as a prison movie theme, was most recently used in the 1990 hit movie "Ghost", staring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. The Righteous Brothers' version is prominently used in the sexy pottery love scene between the film's two leads. Once again, the Righteous Brothers (Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley) made it to the charts for 25 weeks. This was a new recording. It reached number 19 on 10-13-1990. A re-issue of the original was used for the movie and it reached number 13.

In 1995 Robson and Jerome from England opened at number 1 on 5-20-1995 and remained there for 7 weeks

In 2002 Gareth Gates from England opened at number 1 on March 18. 2002

Click Here to view more details about "Unchained Melody".

Writer Anecdotes
MPL recently spoke to Hy from his CT home and here are a few special song anecdotes he wanted to share...

Will You Marry Me?
About 5 years ago I went to the Japanse Tourist Bureau to book a trip to Japan. When I got there I told the travel agent that I wrote Unchained Melody and in turn she told me a very touching story. When she was young she had made up her mind to find the writer of her favorite song, Unchained Melody, and marry him. Unfortunately I had to tell her that she was too late! I never did get to Japan, but I wish I did.

A Lifesaver
About 4 years ago a Chinese Art dealer moved into my neighborhood in CT and because I collect Chinese Art, I went to the showroom. The owner, after hearing that I wrote "Unchained Melody", told me a remarkable story of survival. About 40 years ago, while swimming in the harbor in Hong Kong, he got lost and could not find his way back to shore. He almost drowned if it weren't for a juke box playing on a distant shore. The song playing on that juke box that saved his life and guided him to safety was "Unchained Melody!"

Fun Fact
During Queen Elizabeth's 50th Anniversary celebration, 1 million + fans gathered outside her Palace and sang "Unchained Melody" -- one of her favorite songs. It was a scene fit for a Queen!

Famous Cover Versions of this HIT song:
LeAnn Rimes (featured on hit album "Unchained Melody: The Early Years")
Gareth Gates (#1 single in the UK by Pop Idol runner-up 2002)
Cyndi Lauper (featured on 2003 hit album "At Last")
Elvis Presley
Air Supply
The Captain & Tennille
Chet Atkins
George Benson
The Righteous Brothers
Bing Crosby
Al Green
Al Hibbler
Joni Mitchell
Matt Monroe
Willie Nelson
Diana Ross
Peter Sellers
Conway Twitty
Dionne Warwick
Andy Williams
Jimmy Young
Henry Mancini
Leo Sayer
and many many more!

Hy Zaret Current Events
Living Video Archive - ASCAP

Sheet Music & Folios -
Audio, Video & DVDs -
Publisher/Songwriter Affiliation -
Ghost (1990) -

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