Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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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.

“Les Baxter & His Orchestra released an instrumental version which reached #1 on the Billboard 100. Competition came from versions by Al Hibbler, reaching #3 on the Billboard charts; Jimmy Young, who hit #1 in the United Kingdom; and Roy Hamilton (‘Don’t Let Go‘), reaching #1 on the R&B chart and #6 on the Billboard 100. The Crew Cuts, Chet Atkins, and Cab Calloway also released recordings of ‘Unchained Melody’ that did not chart. All told, twenty versions on some twenty different labels competed for chart supremacy in 1955. Hundreds of other recordings over the years would soon follow.

“It was the 1965 version by The Righteous Brothers (with the wonderful lead vocal by Bobby Hatfield) that became the jukebox standard for the late 20th century. It not only topped the Billboard chart in 1965 (and set off another stampede of recordings e.g., Sonny & Cher, Gene Pitney, Dionne Warwick), ‘Unchained Melody’ achieved a third round of great popularity when The Righteous Brothers’ recording was featured in the 1990 blockbuster film Ghost and released yet again as a single.

“Of note, too, is a comic version recorded in 1955 by The Goons (Peter Sellers, Harry Seacombe & Spike Milligan), sung in an inappropriately upbeat manner (and with a few added “ying-tongs”). The Goons were forced by the rights holders to remove the recording from retail stores, under threat of suit, because it was felt their version was ‘disrespectful.'”

Todd Duncan, “Unchained Melody” from Unchained (1955):

Al Hibbler, “Unchained Melody” (1955):

Jimmy Young, “Unchained Melody” (1955):

Roy Hamilton, “Unchained Melody” (1955):

Liberace, “Unchained Melody” (1955):

The Goons, “Unchained Melody” parody/novelty (1955):

The Righteous Brothers, “Unchained Melody” live TV performance (1965):

LeeAnn Rimes, “Unchained Melody” (1996):

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