Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Unchained Melody

First performed by Todd Duncan (1955).
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 #4/R&B #6/UK #14 1965 |US #13/CAN #4/UK #1/IRE #1/AUS #1/NZ #1 1990), LeAnn 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; American entertainer Liberace’s instrumental arrangement charted in the UK; the vocal arrangement by Roy Hamilton (‘Don’t Let Go‘) hit #1 on the R&B chart and peaked at #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. Charting Top-5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1965 and Top-10 R&B, it set off another stampede of recordings e.g., Sonny & Cher, Gene Pitney, Dionne Warwick.

“In 1990, ‘Unchained Melody’ achieved a third round of great popularity when The Righteous Brothers’ original 1965 recording was featured in the blockbuster film Ghost and was released yet again as a single, becoming a Top-20 hit in the US but also becoming a major international hit (#1 UK) this time around.

“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.'”

Lex Baxter, “Unchained Melody” (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” (1965):

LeAnn Rimes, “Unchained Melody” (1996):