Bobby and his partner Bill Medley both grew up in Orange County, Bobby graduating from Anaheim High in 1958 and Bill from Santa Ana High School. The duo performed together for the first time in 1962 and went on to sell millions of albums. Their 1964 track, You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling became an instant hit and still holds the record as the most-played song in the history of American radio.
Dubbed the founders of “blue-eyed soul,” the Righteous Brothers unique sound led them to become a leading act and a favorite group among millions of fans. Their musical relevance continues to be a staple in American pop music culture.
The Righteous Brothers evolved from a five-piece group called The Paramours. Performing in a local bar, a Marine in the audience shouted out after one of their duets, “That was righteous, brothers.” They remembered the occasion and eventually renamed their group The Righteous Brothers for their first album.
Within two years, they had made inroads in radio and landed a semi-regular spot on ABC-TV’s “Shindig.” The duo proved flexible enough to share concert bills with the legendary Jack Benny, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But their full power would not be recognized until the 1964 session that yielded You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin. They built a pleading, four-minute cry of romantic desperation that Vanity Fair would recognize as “the most erotic duet between men on record.”
The Righteous Brothers gained a new generation of fans when their hit Unchained Melody was included in the soundtrack for the 1989 movie Ghost. Bobby’s performance of the song, originally recorded in a single studio take, was so overwhelmingly received that the duo recorded a new version, which also went platinum and earned them a Grammy nomination.
The duo was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, shortly before Hatfield’s death. Bobby received a star on the Anaheim/Orange County Walk of Stars in October 2008, which was accepted by his partner Bill Medley and his widow Linda Hatfield, who is now deceased.
But it’s Bobby’s Anaheim roots that are treasured by all Colonists. While at Anaheim High, Bobby was student body president in the 1957-58 school year. A natural leader and a well-liked student, Bobby also served as student body president at Fremont Junior High located just across the street from Anaheim. Upon entering AHS, he was elected as vice president of his sophomore class.
His leadership skills and love of teamwork was also manifested on the athletic field. He was caption for the C football team and co-captain of the basketball team in his sophomore year. As a senior, he was a member of the varsity football team.
While active in many sports, his first love was baseball. According to a write-up in the Anaheim High 1958 yearbook, he “made a fine showing in the outfield” as a two-year member of the varsity baseball team.
His performing arts activities at Anaheim High didn’t include singing in the school choir, but he did perform in school talent shows and did very well as a soloist, according to AHS Alumni Association President Gerald Woodward, a Class of ’59 graduate. “He played end on the football team but did not get a lot of playing time because of his size and a wealth of talent on the team at that position. He was a much better baseball player than he was as a football player, but he tried, and a lot of guys on campus much bigger than he never did.”
Gerald also remembers that Bobby was one of the most popular students on campus and a friend to all. “He had a great sense of humor which not everyone knew,” said Woodward. “Those of us who played football and baseball with him saw that side of him.”
His early performances can also be traced to a favorite local hangout. Anaheim legend says that the Righteous Brothers began their early career at the Bean Hut (a.k.a. the La Palma Drive-In), even dedicating a song to the restaurant called the “Hot Tamale.”
Bobby embraced life from an early age and went on to become a rock and roll legend. Turn on the radio and you’ll be sure to hear his beautiful tenor voice still enchanting listeners.