Unchained Melody is a 1955 popular song with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret. Rerecorded in 1965, it became one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, by some counts having spawned over 500 versions in hundreds of different languages.
In 1955, North used the music as a theme for the prison film Unchained, hence the name. Todd Duncan sang the vocals for the film soundtrack. Les Baxter (Capitol Records catalog number 3055), released an instrumental version which reached #2. Then song recordings were released by Al Hibbler (Decca Records #29441) reaching #3 on the Billboard charts, Jimmy Young which hit #1 on the British charts, and Roy Hamilton (Epic Records no. 9102) reaching #1 on the R&B Best Sellers list and #6 on the pop chart. Hundreds of other recordings followed.
It was the July 1965 version by The Righteous Brothers that became a jukebox standard for the late 20th century, regaining massive popularity when used in the 1990 blockbuster film Ghost.
Origin of song
In 1955, Alex North and lyricist Hy Zaret were contracted to write a song as a theme for the obscure prison film Unchained, and their song eventually became known as the “Unchained Melody”. The song doesn’t actually include the word “unchained”, and songwriter Zaret chose instead to focus his lyrics on someone who pines for a lover he hasn’t seen in a “long, lonely time”. The 1955 film centers around a man who contemplates either escaping from prison, to live life on the run, or completing his sentence and returning to his wife and family.
Todd Duncan — in the film Unchained (1955)
Les Baxter – recorded March 1955
Al Hibbler — 1955
Bing Crosby — recorded 9 June 1955
The Righteous Brothers — from the TV show Shindig!, c. 1965
undated, c. 1965?