Righteous Brother Bobby Hatfield Dies

Posted in News on November 5, 2003
Bobby Hatfield, half of legendary BMI singing duo The Righteous Brothers, was found dead Wednesday (11/5) in his hotel room in Kalamazoo, Michigan, his manager David Cohen said. He was 63.

Hatfield was discovered by hotel staff a half-hour before a scheduled performance at Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University, the kick off to a four-day series of performances in Michigan and Ohio. The cause of death was unknown and an autopsy was to be performed in Lansing.

Bobby Hatfield (left) and Bill Medley perform "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" at the 1997 BMI Pop Awards

With a career that spans four decades, Hatfield's soaring tenor combined with singing partner Bill Medley's silken bass created a unique harmonic blend that has impacted American pop culture itself. Their signature 1964 single, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," is the most performed song in BMI's history and now has over 10 million US radio and TV feature performances. Written by BMI songwriters Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and producer Phil Spector, the pop anthem has also earned a record 14 BMI Pop Awards (1965, 1969, 1980, 1989-1999) as well as a BMI R&B Award in 1971. Among the duo's other classics are the 1966 BMI Pop Award winner, "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration," which has more than 4.5 million radio plays, and the 1965 top 10 hit, "Just Once in My Life."

Nicknamed the "blond bomber," Robert Lee Hatfield was born on August 10, 1940, in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, moving to Anaheim, California with his parents - who owned a dry-cleaning store - when he was four. He began organizing vocal and instrumental groups in high school and, later, at Fullerton Junior College and Long Beach State where he started his own band, performing at proms and fraternity dances. It was on that circuit that he met Medley. The pair first teamed up in 1962 as part of a five-piece group called The Paramours, changing their name to The Righteous Brothers after a black Marine called out during one of their duet performances, "That was righteous, brothers!" Their R&B-infused pop sound, tabbed "blue-eyed soul" by a Philadelphia radio DJ, defied traditional music genres and their songs were heard on both pop and R&B stations alike.

After parting in 1968, The Righteous Brothers reunited in 1974, returning to the top of the charts with "Rock And Roll Heaven." In the past 20 years, they gained numerous new fans who heard their songs for the first time on the soundtracks of hit movies "Top Gun," "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing." The Grammy-nominated duo was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Hatfield is survived by his wife, Linda, and two children.