Monday, July 09, 2007
UNCHAINED MELODY x 25 incl. Peter Sellers
He almost made it to 100.
Hy Zaret, lyricist for "Unchained Melody" (music by Alex North) was born Hyman Zaritsky on August 21, 1907. He died on July 2, 2007.
Here's 28 versions of Hy's famous song, including a banned one.
Yes, the Goon Show-styled cover from Peter Sellers was considered sacrilege when it was first recorded, but, Sapristi! - here it is. (There are several more obscure covers of the song in this download, so consider the famous ones just throw-ins. This blog IS basically to promote lesser known music! Not to mention lesser known songwriters like the low-profile Mr. Zaret)
When producers asked for a title song to help sell their forgettable film, Zaret wasn't interested. He was painting his house, and the shmearing was taking up a lot of time. Besides, what rhymes with "unchained?"
Allowed to write a generic love song, Hy hacked out some trite lines ("I need your love. I need your love. God-speed your love") and more triteness ("Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea. To the open arms of the sea") and even more triteness ("Lonely rivers sigh wait for me, wait for me. I'll be coming home, wait for me"). Well, these are song lyrics, folks, not poetry.
Now what should the title be? "Wait for Me" or "I Need Your Love?" Nah. North had written a melody for the film "Unchained" so it stayed that way: "Unchained Melody."
Todd Duncan sang it in the film, but the 1955 hit versions were by Al Hibbler (US) and Jimmy Young (UK) and later Roy Hamilton and June Valli. The song became a reliable standard but it took exactly ten years for it to reach "hit song" greatness, thanks to the Righteous Brothers cover (produced by arranger/gun enthusiast Phil Spector).
The song finally became a movie hit when it was used in the film "Ghost," the soundtrack for a scene that effectively visualized the lyric's yearnings. Simon Cowell (yes, the wiseguy in the tiny t-shirt) produced a hit version of the song for the team of Robson and Jerome in 1995, exactly 40 years after Hibbler first hit the charts with it. In 2002 the song was again a hit via British "Idol" contestant Gareth Gates.
And here? Here you get Shayne Ward, Dobby Dobson, Ann & Nancy Wilson (huh? they covered it??), Matt Monro, the late Boots Randolph, U2, Pitney, Orbison, and a host of others.
The song is a perfect example of how a great melody can float and enhance very simple lyrics. Zaret deserves credit for mating his imagery ("lonely rivers flow to the sea") to the sea change of North's key change. And there probably isn't an amateur alive who hasn't tried to croon that lush opening line: "Oh, my love, my darling, I've hungered for your touch!" I think Joni Mitchell once did it in a Chinese cafe.
If you want to survey more of Zaret's lyrics, try "Dedicated To You," "There I Go," "So Long For a While (theme for tv's "Your Hit Parade") and the immortal "One Meat Ball." Rock fans will consider Zaret's hy-lights to be a World War Two song "The Partisan" (covered by Leonard Cohen) and "Why Does the Sun Shine," covered in 1994 by They Might Be Giants.
Yes, that's Hy and his wife Shirley superimposed on the original sheet music, which features a shot of the pre-Perry Mason Barbara Hale, who is still with us, and one of the nicest ladies in show biz. Hail Hale, goodbye Hy, and let's unchain the download...
A FULL RS DOWNLOAD OF 25 UNCHAINED MELODIES