Celebrating Seniors: Bill Medley is 75 pt 2of2
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ blue-eyed soul baritone singer-songwriter Bill Medley was born 75 years ago today on September 19, 1940 in Los Angeles California.
Bill Medley Part 2: Solo and Righteous Brothers Reunited
After a string of hits produced by Phil Spector, the Righteous Brothers (Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield) moved to Verve Records to produce their own songs. Their first Verve single You’re My Soul and Inspiration (1966) was also produced by Bill Medley, and after being released in April went to #1 for three weeks. Below, The Righteous Brothers singing You’re My Soul and Inspiration.
Two other Righteous Brothers songs hit the US Billboard charts that year, Go Ahead and Cry at #30 and On This Side of Goodbye at #47. Below, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield singing their Top 100 hit single Justine.
Karen and Bill Medley’s son Darrin Medley was born in 1966. Frank Sinatra brought the Righteous Brothers to Las Vegas and they played smaller lounges there until in 1968, when they were offered the chance to headline at the Sands Casino. Although Medley wanted to do it, Bobby Hatfield didn’t, so Medley left and the Righteous Brothers folded. After many infidelities on Bill Medley’s part, he and Karen divorced when he fell in love with singer Darlene Love during the final Righteous Brothers tour, and began a long-term affair with her.
In his 2014 memoir written with Mike Marino The Time of My Life: A Righteous Brother’s Memoir, Medley recounted wanting to get back together with Karen (who was by then in a relationship with her future husband Jerry Klass), and being rejected by her.
Bill Medley released 6 solo albums between 1968-1973 and had a couple of early Top 40 Pop hits in 1968 including Brown Eyed Woman.
In the early 1970’s, Bill Medley was singing three solo shows a night in Las Vegas; by 1972 he suffered a bout of laryngitis that kept getting worse, and lost his voice for two years. It didn’t fully return until after Medley connected up with his old high school music teacher Jack Coleman, and began twice-daily vocal exercises. During the 70’s, Bill Medley had on-off relationships with Mary Wilson (of the Supremes) and singer/actress Connie Stevens (they shared a mutual close friendship with Elvis Presley). He also got married and divorced twice; neither marriage lasted for long, and Medley has said his third marriage was one of biggest mistakes of his life.
Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield reunited in 1974 and had as the Righteous Brothers, had 3 Top 40 singles in 1974 (Rock and Roll Heaven, Give it to the People, Dream On), but further chart success eluded them until their earlier hits You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’ and Unchained Melody were re-released in the late 1980’s and 1990. Below, The Righteous Brothers performing their #3 US Billboard hit single, Rock and Roll Heaven (1974), live in 1981.
Bill Medley and first wife Karen had maintained a close relationship despite her marriage to Jerry Klass in 1970 and the birth of her second son Damien in 1971. Medley settled in Newport Beach, California in 1975 and lived there when he wasn’t performing in Las Vegas or touring; Jerry and Karen Klass lived in nearby Hermosa Beach. On the morning of January 30, 1976 Bill and his son Darrin stopped off to visit relatives on their way to the Lake Arrowhead, California resort, and were told that Karen had been beaten and possibly raped. Medley immediately drove back to the Hermosa Beach hospital to discover that Karen was unconscious; her rapist had tried to strangle her with her bra and she had been deprived of oxygen for about 15 minutes. Medley stayed with her at the hospital and she died 4 days later, having never regained consciousness. Karen Klass’ murder has never been solved.
Below, Bill Medley recounted the events of that day in his 2014 Mail Online article:
“My ex-wife Karen returned from dropping her younger son Damien off at school. She entered her Hermosa Beach house through the back door she always left open. Her two closest girlfriends had plans to go for breakfast with her that morning. They saw her pull into her drive, and thought she’d be ready in a minute. There had been a strange-looking man around the neighbourhood the past couple of days, and they wanted to tell her about that…When they rang a little while later and nobody answered, they went over. Karen’s crutches were on the floor – she had broken her leg trying to ride our ten-year-old son Darrin’s skateboard. Her friend shouted her name and got no response. They could hear whimpering. As they went into the hall, a man stepped out. ‘Hi girls,’ he said, then walked out of the front door.”
Karen Medley was found on the floor of her bedroom by her friends. Medley was devastated by Karen’s death. “In spite of our divorce, Karen was my best friend. Over 35 years later, I’m still looking for the man who killed her. I’ve got a private eye on the case.” He stopped touring in order to spend more time with Darrin and Karen’s younger son Damien.
(Bobby Hatfield & Bill Medley, The Righteous Brothers c. 1970s-1980s Photo: Orange Country Archives)
The Righteous Brothers reunited in 1981 and although no new hits were forthcoming for the duo, they did tour frequently in North America until Bobby Hatfield’s death in 2003. In 1984 they jointly opened the Hop, a music club in Fountain Valley where they often performed, followed by a second club in Lake-wood. As a solo artist, Medley had 5 Top 100 US Country singles in 1984 and 1985 from his I Still Do (1984) and Still Hung Up on You (1985) albums. His version of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother was part of the soundtrack for the 1988 movie Rambo III, starring Sylvester Stallone. Below, Bill Medley singing He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother in the background of this scene in Rambo III:
In 1986 Bill Medley married his long-time girlfriend Paula Vasu, and their daughter McKenna Medley was born in 1987. That same year he and singer-songwriter Jennifer Warnes recorded the duet I’ve Had The Time of My Life for the soundtrack of the movie Dirty Dancing (1987). The song was a #1 US Billboard hit single and won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1988. Below, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes sing I’ve Had The Time of My Life.
While in his fifties, Medley recorded the theme song for 1991’s The Last Boy Scout movie, and appeared on television in specials during the 1990’s. He also spent much of his 50+ years performing in Branson, Missouri, where his country-rock singing daughter McKenna Medley joined him as an opening act, and on the duet I’ve Had the Time of My Life. As a septuagenarian senior citizen at the age of 71, Bill and McKenna Medley went on a road tour in 2011; and in 2013 for the first time in his life, Bill Medley performed overseas in a concert at England’s Wembley Arena.
In 2014 when asked by Rock Cellar Magazine who his soul and inspiration were, Medley answered: “Well, my family, all of them. I have a forty-eight year-old son, a twenty-seven-year old daughter, a lovely wife and my grandchildren too. Those are the people that keep me alive. And I can’t forget my audiences.”
In 2015 senior citizen Bill Medley is still married to Paula and performing often in Branson with daughter McKenna Medley, and at concerts in California. Daughter McKenna Medlely is living and performing in Nashville, and son Darrin Medley is also a singer (at one time singing lead for Paul Revere and the Raiders). Darrin Medley and Damien Klass are listed on the Executive of Medley Communications, a southern California cable tv contracting company.
Happy 75th Birthday, Bill Medley!
Previously: Bill Medley Part 1: The Phil Spector Years