TWENTY YEARS AGO: Death of a Pop Star – Kalamazoo, Michigan: 2003
With the recent passing of ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill, more and more rock ‘n roll fans are realizing their music heroes are dropping off, one-by-one. There are only a good handful of original rockers left from the 50s and 60s, but probably not for long…so if you get the chance to see any of ‘em, it would be a good idea.
All this retrospect brought to mind the death of Bobby Hatfield, who passed away close to home. Bobby was the tenor half of The Righteous Brothers, alongside baritone Bill Medley. His death occurred in Kalamazoo just before he was ready to go onstage.
The Righteous Brothers released a good number of hits, the most well-known being “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (1964, the most programmed song in U.S. radio history), “Soul And Inspiration” (1966), “Rock And Roll Heaven” (1974), and the one that featured Bobby’s most popular vocal, “Unchained Melody” in 1965.
The Righteous Brothers were on tour with scheduled dates in Michigan and Ohio. On November 5, 2003, they were staying at the Radisson Hotel in Kalamazoo and performing just a couple of miles away at Miller Auditorium. The show was preparing to begin in a half hour and Hatfield hadn’t shown up yet. Medley and their road manager went to Hatfield’s room to see what was keeping him and they found him lying dead on his bed.
His remains were taken to Lansing for an autopsy. The report stated that he passed away in his sleep, cocaine was discovered in his bloodstream, there was massive blockage in his coronary arteries, and he died of a heart attack. He was 63 years old.
Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley had been a team ever since 1962; they started in a group called The Paramours, then branched out as a duo. After one particular performance, a man stood up in the audience and shouted, “that was righteous, brothers!” and that’s the name they went with.
Take a look at some photos below and a few video performances of The Righteous Brothers – especially “Unchained Melody”…
Memories of Bobby Hatfield