November 5, 2003 – Robert ‘Bobby’ Lee Hatfield was born on August 10, 1940 in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and moved with his family to Anaheim, California when he was four. A 1958 graduate of Anaheim High School, where he had sung in the school choir.
His introduction into show business was singing, “Shortnin’ Bread” on a local radio show as a 3rd grader. He was the student body president of his high school, sang in the choirs, and once said he would never forget his first solo appearance.
“I was M.C. for our talent show. Two days prior to the show, for some ungodly reason, I decided to sing. I was never so scared in my life and also never so thankful that I had dark pants on! I sang Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are”, and even though I thought the sound of my knees banging together was drowning out my voice, I managed to pull it off.”
Always athletic, he was highly scouted by the L.A. Dodgers, and in 1988 was inducted into the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame. An avid golfer, he hosted an annual golf tournament which raised over one million dollars for Lupus..
He met his singing future partner Bill Medley while at California State University Long Beach. The pair began singing together ’62 in the LA area in a group called the Paramours, sounding like African-American gospel singers, they renamed their act “The Righteous Brothers“.
“You never close your eyes…”
That simple, six-note opening line from You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ resonates among the most familiar kick-offs in pop music history. The Righteous Brothers galvanized the link between rock and rhythm & blues so convincingly that they spurred the creation of a new term, “blue-eyed soul.”
Their first charted single was “Little Latin Lupe Lu” and their first No.1 was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” came in 1964. Follow-up hits included the No.1 “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” and “Unchained Melody”, the latter of which was a Hatfield solo performance that he recorded again after the success of the movie “Ghost”, remarking that he had not lost any of the high notes in his tenor/falsetto range since the original recording, but had actually gained one note. The duo broke up in 1968 but returned with another hit in 1974, the No.3 “Rock and Roll Heaven.” The duo was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2003 by Billy Joe.
On November 5, 2003 he was found dead in his hotel room in Michigan 30 minutes before he was due on stage. Allegedly an overdose of cocaine had precipitated a fatal heart attack at age 63.