When I first saw today’s strip, I thought, ‘Isn’t that kind of racy for kids to be playing?’
But that is, of course, because the song ‘Unchained Melody’ has for more than 30 years been chained to a certain famous, and much parodied, pottery making scene in the movie Ghost. To the point that playing the first few notes of the Righteous Brothers cover of the song instantly cues many brains to expect slow motion montages of wet, spinning clay.
But the song was created 35 years before Patrick Swayze ever slid his hands over Demi Moore’s while Bobby Hatfield crooned. American composer Alex North, (most known for scoring Spartacus and the jazz infused soundtrack to A Streetcar Named Desire,) wrote the melody that has no bonds for the movie he was currently scoring. A completely forgotten 1955 prison pic called Unchained. (Which was based on a real experimental reform prison in Chino, California.)
North asked lyricist Hy Zaret, (famous for later writing children’s educational songs such as ‘The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas’) to write the words. The producers had requested that the word ‘unchained’ be used in the lyrics. Zaret refused, so instead the whole song was called ‘Unchained Melody.’
The first singer to record ‘Unchained Melody’ was African American opera singer and actor Todd Duncan, who had a bit part in the movie as an unnamed prisoner singing a shortened version of the song.
Since then “Unchained Melody” has reached number one on the UK four times with four different recordings. It is currently one of the highest grossing royalty earners for it’s copyright holders of any song.
Was that a great musical education? Maybe not. I mean, I stole most of those facts off of the internet and I knew NONE of this before I looked it up today. But I guarantee you it’s a better musical education that Lefty usually provides. And I suspect Batiuk doesn’t care at all about the song, its history, or if it would be appropriate, or even possible, for a high school band to play an arrangement of it. He just heard a song title and thought, ‘Heh, I can make a quick band joke outta this.’
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