As it has for everybody, the last year or so has been difficult for Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers, and the cure for him, as it has always been, has been to hit the road to perform. In addition to being stuck at home during a pandemic, he had a cancerous growth removed from his throat in May. Then in June, he lost his wife of 35 years, Paula, who had battled Parkinson's disease for five years.
"It's been a hell of a year," he said. "Getting back on stage has been wonderful. It always has been."
At 80, Medley said even the travel and hotels are part of the job, and he's done it enough to make it work.
"I've said for years, you pay me to travel. I go on stage for free. Plus I have my band and my partner [Bucky Heard], and my daughter [McKenna] performs with us."
As one half of the Righteous Brothers — along with Bobby Hatfield originally — Medley helped create some of the most memorable music in rock and pop history. He said it thrills him to this day to have fans tell him how much "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Unchained Melody" mean to them.
"We haven't done so as much this year because of COVID, but we usually go out and sign autographs, and we've heard some amazing stories. We've touched a lot of people and made a lot of babies," he laughs.
Hatfield and Medley took their name from the many Black Marines from El Toro Marine Base in Orange County, California, who would come to hear two "righteous brothers" sing.
If you go
› What: The Righteous Brothers in concert
› When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18
› Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.
› Admission: $35-$99
› Online: tivolichattanooga.com
After Hatfield died in 2003, Medley said, it took him many years before he would consider joining forces with another singer as the Righteous Brothers.
Medley said replacing someone in a band, especially in a duo, can be tough, so he empathizes with what he expects the Rolling Stones are going through after the recent death of Charlie Watts.
"It is very difficult, in part because like with Bobby and me, we are both leading men, and we have our egos."
He said it helped a great deal that he already knew Bucky Heard and his talent for singing just about anything. Just as important, they like each other.
"One upside for getting a little older is you realize that 90% of stuff doesn't work or is bad for you, and you just get rid of it. We've always hired our bands because we liked them. They are great musicians obviously, but we get along. It gets intimate on a bus."
He said he has always told Heard to "sing like Bucky," not Bobby.
For Medley, just being able to get out again and sing in front of an audience is what it's all about.
"It's just wonderful."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.