Hotel hosts Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers
Preview by Joshua Maloni
This Valentine's Day, if you feel you've "Lost That Lovin' Feelin,' " Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel has just the cure. Grammy winner Bill Medley performs his romantic hits live on Sunday, Feb. 12, with a special 4 p.m. start time.
Medley, who teamed with the late Bobby Hatfield to craft blue-eyed soul as The Righteous Brothers, is responsible for three of the most iconic songs in music history - each a part of an equally iconic movie scene.
"Unchained Melody" set the mood for the pottery-spinning Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in "Ghost." Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards serenaded Kelly McGillis with "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' " in "Top Gun." And who could forget Jennifer Grey dancing into Swayze's arms to "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" in "Dirty Dancing"?
Medley promises to perform those love songs and more when he returns to Niagara Falls.
"I do all of The Righteous Brothers songs, and I sit down at the piano and we kind of do an unplugged portion of the show where I get to tell some stories that I think they would be interested in - like being on the Beatle tour ... and being friends with Elvis," Medley said in his distinctive baritone voice. "I do about an hour-and-a-half, and for me it's just a lot of fun - especially the unplugged thing. I get to do some old, old Righteous Brothers songs, and some other stuff. So, it's cool."
Medley, who was born and raised in Southern California, cut his teeth performing songs in the style of his music heroes: Ray Charles and Little Richard.
"I just loved singing in church choirs and school choirs, and when rock and roll hit in about 1955, I thought I'd died and went to Heaven," he said. "It just changed my life."
Medley and Hatfield formed The Righteous Brothers in 1962.
"When it was time for us to go on stage - which, I never felt that was what I was going to do - that's the way we sang. We just were so taken and obsessed with the black rhythm and blues artists that that was our frame. I had Little Richard and Ray Charles and all these guys coming over to my house everyday and teaching me to sing, via the records.
"I was very lucky. Bobby and I just ended up in it. One thing led to another; it wasn't anything that we geniusly did. It just kind of fell - thank God - fell on us. And we were more than thrilled to death to go out and do it."
While Medley is in his sixth decade of performing - and, undoubtedly, has performed his biggest hits thousands of times on stage - he still gets excited about seeing a "brand new" audience at each show.
"It's very interesting, because it's almost very sick," he explained. "The minute you go on stage and you start performing those songs, somehow, someway, you just feel like you're 25 years old again. And so, when I do 'Lovin' Feelin,' or 'Unchained Melody,' or any of them, it's just real fresh to me. Because going on stage, to me, every night is a first date.
"Of course, on the first date, you want to do everything right. You want to look good; you want to say the right things. When I walk on stage, the 25-year-old Bill Medley takes over and I leave the 71-year-old Bill Medley waiting in the dressing room."
In recent years, Medley has taken his 24-year-old daughter, McKenna, with him on the road. She is an aspiring country-rock singer with a love for music from her father's era, as well as Frank Sinatra-style standards.
"She just has a real melodic voice," he said. "She's kind of not like me. She's got a much better voice than I do. And she writes real melodic. She's got a lot of depth to her."
Still, Medley doesn't envy his daughter's pursuit of a music career in an industry that is notably struggling to find its own identity.
"I just feel real horrible for her, because she wants in the business ... and where do you go? What do you do? It's just so splintered," Medley said. "The record companies ... everything that I came up with is damn near obsolete. Record stores, record companies - you know, you can make a record now in your bathroom and put it on the Internet."
"But she has to do it, because that's what she does," he said. "She's a really good singer; really good songwriter; and that's what she's going to do."
Bill and McKenna performed "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" in 2006 on the hit ABC series "Dancing with the Stars." That appearance, coupled with a pop-culture resurgence of everything '80s (including "Dirty Dancing"), has netted Medley yet another new generation of fans.
"The feedback that I've got is they say they've come to hear 'Time of My Life' and they just fell in love with all the other songs," he said.
Love will be in the air when Bill Medley performs a special, pre-Valentine's Day concert at Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, 310 Fourth St., Niagara Falls. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster locations and online at www.ticketmaster.com.
•Bill Medley is online at http://www.billmedley.com/.