Lyricist behind Unchained Melody dies

Hy Zaret, the lyricist behind Unchained Melody, one of the most frequently recorded songs of the 20th century, has died.

Hy Zaret, the lyricist behind Unchained Melody, one of the most frequently recorded songs of the 20th century, has died.

Born Hyman Harry Zaritsky in New York, the 99-year-oldsongwriter died Monday at home in Connecticut. He was about a month shy of his 100th birthday, his son Robert Zaret, said on Tuesday.

Zaret and composer Alex North were commissioned to write a song for the 1955 prison film Unchained. The duo came up with Unchained Melody, which eventually netted them an Oscar nomination for best song.

For the tune, which doesn't actually include the word "unchained," Zaret chose instead to focus his lyrics on a singer who pines for a lover he hasn't seen in a long time.

The 1955 film centres around a character who contemplates breaking free from prison and living life on the lam or completing his sentence and returning to his wife and family.

Overall, Zaret's oeuvre included advertising jingles and music for film and television, tunes recorded by artists ranging from Jimmy Dorsey to Leonard Cohen and songs about science or other topics for educational children's albums.

More recently, Zaret fought off another man's claims to have written Unchained Melody, which has been his most enduring work.

Over the years, the song has been recorded by dozens of artists, from Al Hibbler to Elvis Presley to U2.

However, for many people, the best known version is the one produced by Phil Spector for the Righteous Brothers. After rocketing up the charts upon release in 1965, it became a hit once again 25 years later when used in an emotional scene in the hit film Ghost.

In 1999, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers said that Unchained Melody has been recorded more than 300 times and is one of the most-performed musical works of the 20th century.

The tune has also been recognized by the U.S. Songwriters Hall of Fame.

With files from the Associated Press