"Unchained Melody": the song of one of the most memorable romantic scenes in history

“Unchained Melody”: the song of one of the most memorable romantic scenes in history

There are movie sequences and melodies that make for perfect pairings. So much so that some films survive their own era for those brief minutes or seconds. What this movie sequence Ghost in which Demi Moore spins on a potter’s wheel, gets her hands wet, begins to model and when she closes her eyes her “ghost” (Patrick Swayze) appears, who kisses her passionately. All of this happens while behind you comes the voice of the Righteous Brothers with the classic modulation of 50s ballads: “Woah, my love, my darling / I’ve affamed for your touch / A long, lonely time”. “Unleashed Melody” (called here “Unleashed Melody”) was famous for the voices of this duo, in the fifties, and had another moment of glory thanks to this 1990 film directed by Jerry Zucker. But it has gone through many other versions, including illustrious ones like Elvis Presley and Bono from U2, over more than half a century.

Elvis Presley sang Unchained Melody at his last concert

“Unleashed Melody” is a song that was actually written for another movie whose plot had nothing to do with Ghost. He is the one who inspired the name of the song. Directed by Hall Bartlett, it premiered in 1955 as unleashed. And that counts, precisely, the story of a man who is tried and found guilty of a crime. Despite his violent character, he is sent to a prison where there are neither bars nor chains. Although he plans an escape, he is influenced by the rest of the inmates, who adapt to this non-punitive model and decide to serve his sentence. The theme, which was nominated for an Oscar for best soundtrack, was heard in the voice of a prisoner who was accompanied only by his guitar.

Righteous Brothers, responsible for the most famous version of "Unleashed Melody"
Righteous Brothers, responsible for the most famous version of “Unchained Melody”Michael Ochs Archives – Michael Ochs Archives

About how the song was conceived, one version says that Alex North, the composer, commissioned Tin Pan Alley lyricist Hy Zaret to write a letter that included the word “unchained”. Legend has it that Zaret initially refused but then agreed on the condition that North’s request be dropped. And so it was, the word “unleashed” does not appear in the verses.

The song had several versions until the canonical version of Righteous Brothers, the very one who 25 years later returned to the record industry rankings thanks to the film Ghost.

In Ghost, the story is totally different from that of “Unchained”, although they have something in common: a crime. The argument of Ghost, shadow of love (as it was called in Argentina), revolves around the relationship of Sam Wheat (patrick swayze) and Molly Jensen (Half Moore). One evening, they leave the theater on their way back to their apartment in New York and are intercepted by a robber who, after a struggle with Wheat, shoots his gun and kills him. Sam dies instantly but something about him, like a lost soul, never stops leaving. This is what Molly perceives in situations like the famous scene where she begins to mold a piece of pottery while listening to “Unchained Melody”.

The song has a small, intimate beginning, which grows as the bars go on until it reaches choral or symphonic forms. That’s why it’s common for releases to have that dynamic that goes from that intimate statement to the bombastic musical gesture. At the end of his career, Elvis Presley could be seen sitting at the piano, surrounded by his musicians, to interpret it. There is a live record, from 1977, in his last concert, where we hear him restless, but giving all his singing strength, from the start.

Upon its release, four versions were recorded which entered the UK Top 30 chart. Ten years later, it fell into the hands of The Righteous Brothers, and then other celebrities became interested in the subject. Iva Zanicchi sang it in 1968. Heart, the band of sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, sang it in 1980 at one of their concerts in Denver, Colorado, and since it was so popular, they included it on a live album, Greatest Hits/Live.

U2 played it in 2005, when they performed at the Live 8 mega-festival. and Italian duo Sonohra made an acoustic version of it for their #CIVICO6 – CIAK6 project. Il Divo went further. He bought the rights to the original song from Hy Zaret and Alex North and later made a version in Italian, called “Senza Catene”, which was released on his album. Anchorfrom 2005.

U2 made a version of "Unleashed Melody" at the Live 8 festival
U2 cover ‘Unchained Melody’ at Live 8 festivalyandex

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