Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: The Righteous Brothers

(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover

First recorded by The Bunny Berigan Orchestra (1941).
Hit versions Kay Kyser & His Orchestra (US #1 1941), by The Glenn Miller Orchestra (US #6 1942), Vera Lynn (1942), The Checkers (1952), The Righteous Brothers (UK #21 1966).

From the wiki: “So ‘British’ was its diction, imagery and tone, many Americans thought ‘(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover’ was written by an Englishman. Instead, it was composed in 1941 by a couple of Americans, Walter Kent (allegedly based on ‘Over the Rainbow‘) with lyrics by Nat Burton, inspired by an American poem written by Alice Duer Miller and Walter Kent titled ‘The White Cliffs’.

“First introduced on the radio by Kate Smith, the first recorded release of the song was by the Bunny Berigan Orchestra in late 1941. Kay Kyser & His Orchestra topped the Hit Parade with their recording, while Glenn Miller’s recording also charted in the Top-10. There was, for a time in early 1942, fourteen different recordings of ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ vying for public attention. But, the most-famous arrangement was recorded in England by Vera Lynn in 1942, with Mantovani’s orchestra, for Decca Records, becoming one of Lynn’s best-loved recordings and among the most popular World War II tunes, serving to uplift civilian morale at a time when Great Britain ‘stood alone’ against Nazi Germany.

“Symbolically, the White Cliffs of Dover are a guardian and protector of the English, a symbol of England’s strength against potential enemies and a reassuring sight to returning travelers. The lyrics refer to the RAF and RCAF fighter pilots (in their blue uniforms) as ‘bluebirds’ (although bluebirds are not native to Europe, and are not migratory) and expresses confidence that they would prevail. Notable phrases include ‘Thumbs Up!’, which was an RAF and RCAF term for permission to go, and ‘flying in those angry skies’ where the air war between Great Britain and Germany was taking place. The lyrics also looked towards a time when the war would be over and peace would rule over the iconic white cliffs of Dover, Britain’s symbolic border with the European mainland.

“The Checkers’ 1953 R&B treatment of ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ was a Top-5 hit in Los Angeles but did not chart nationally. In 1966 the Righteous Brothers reached #21 in the UK with their cover version of ‘White Cliffs of Dover’.”

Dream On (Oak Ridge Boys)

Co-written and first recorded by Dennis Lambert (1972).
Hit versions by The Righteous Brothers (US #32 1974), The Oak Ridge Boys (C&W #1 1980).

From the wiki: “‘Dream On’ was written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, and is best-known for the cover recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys in 1980. Lambert first recorded the song in 1972; The Righteous Brothers covered the song two years later for their final Top 40 appearance in the Billboard Hot 100 (except for the 1990 re-issues of ‘Unchained Melody’ and ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’). ‘Dream On’ is the only Oak Ridge Boys single to feature bass singer Richard Sterban on lead vocals.”

Ebb Tide

First recorded (as “The Sea”) by Robert Maxwell (1953).
Hit versions by Frank Chacksfield & His Orchestra (US #2/UK #9 1953), Vic Damone (US #10 1953), Roy Hamilton (R&B #5 1954), The Platters (US #56 1960), Righteous Brothers (US #5/UK #48 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Ebb Tide’ was written in 1953 by the lyricist Carl Sigman and composer Robert Maxwell. Maxwell, also a harpist, first recorded the song as an instrumental titled ‘The Sea’. (The song’s build up is to illustrate the ocean waves coming in and out, to and from the shores; thus, ‘ebb tide’.) The best-known versions are by Frank Chacksfield & His Orchestra (1953), Vic Damone (1953), Roy Hamilton (1954), The Platters (1960), and the Righteous Brothers (1965). For the Righteous Brothers, ‘Ebb Tide’ would be the last recording of theirs produced by Phil Spector.”

Unchained Melody

First commercial release by The Lex Baxter Orchestra (US #1 1955).
Other hit versions by Al Hibbler (US #3 1955), Jimmy Young (UK #1 1955), Roy Hamilton (US #6/R&B #1 1955), Liberace (UK #20 1955), The Righteous Brothers (US #1/UK #14 1965 |US #19/UK #1 1990), LeeAnn Rimes (C&W #3 1996).

From the wiki: “‘Unchained Melody’ is a 1955 song with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret, used as a theme for the little-known prison film Unchained (hence the name). Todd Duncan sang the vocals for the film soundtrack. ‘Unchained Melody’ has since become one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, by some estimates having spawned over 500 versions in hundreds of different languages.

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