In 1954, he was contacted to write a score for a prison film Unchained. While working on the score, he was asked to write a song based on the movie’s theme. He asked Hy Zaret to write the lyrics. Zaret initially refused due to his schedule, but eventually agreed.
Zaret refused the request from the producers to include the word unchained in the lyrics. While the word unchained is not used in the lyrics of the song, the song became known as Unchained Melody.
Todd Duncan recorded the song for the movie, which was released in 1955. The song was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.
In 1965, The Righteous Brothers recorded the song, becoming the most popular version. Their rendition was used for the movie Ghost in the 1990s.
The song has been featured on numerous TV shows and movies, including Glee, Family Guy, 30 Rock, The Simpsons, Two and a Half Men, Saturday Night Live, The Smell of Fear and The Naked Gun 2 ½.
Unchained Melody was ranked #138 in the 2001 Songs of the Century, #365 in the 2004 The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and #27 in the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs.
In 2007, the Songwriters Hall of Fame honored the creator of the song with the Towering Song Award, stating Unchained Melody has “influenced the culture in a unique way over many years.”