Willie Nelson, "Unchained Melody"

>> Saturday, June 02, 2012

We were in the car, and she was flipping through the channels. I'd been listening to the 1970s channel when I picked her up, partly because they were playing some good stuff like some Heart when I'd first tuned in, partly because I was on some kind of masochistic nostalgia rush when they weren't playing good stuff, that I didn't even change the station when they played some awful shit by James Taylor. But the quality of the playlist decayed to the point neither of us could bear it anymore and she asked if I minded if she changed the station.

And we ended up on the Fifties station, and they were playing some pretty okay stuff. The Righteous Brothers' version of "Unchained Melody" came on and I cranked it up--not that loud, because we were in a residential neighborhood and I get self conscious about bothering anybody. I said, "I don't care how many times I hear this song, I can never hear it enough and I have to turn it up." And she groaned, because, to be fair, we've all heard that song a million and a half times already.

But, I told her, you had to listen to that epic vocal. It really is an epic vocal. I pointed out that it's a vocally challenging song, and she asked if I meant the range and I did, but I also meant the control, how you really have to hold some of those notes. I don't know if it's Medley or Hatfield who has the lead on that version, but the way he holds some of those notes, the breath control on them--it's just something else, something beyond belief, a shiver down the arm and a hitch in the heartbeat.

I said to her, you know who really does a great version of this song and he doesn't even try to hit all the notes? "Willie Nelson. And you know who does a really shitty cover? U2, even though Bono tries to hit all the notes and you'd think they'd do a good job with it." She said she'd have to hear the Willie Nelson version sometime.

So I played it for her when we got home, and we slow-danced to it in my living room.

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