For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, Jim Adams has given us a theme built around tribute songs written in memory of someone. I was going to used Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John,” Don McClean’s “American Pie,” or The Eagles’ “James Dean,” but I’d already use all of them for previous Song Lyric Sunday posts. So I decided to go with The Righteous Brothers’ rendition of “Rock and Roll Heaven.”
“Rock and Roll Heaven” was written by Alan O’Day and Johnny Stevenson and was first recorded by the band Climax in 1973. But it was popularized by The Righteous Brothers when released in 1974 and reached number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
The song was a written originally as a tribute to several deceased singers, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding. In The Righteous Brothers’ single, Jim Morrison of the Doors, Jim Croce, and Bobby Darin were incorporated. Over the years, though, it has been rewritten a number of times to include other singers, including Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Roy Orbison, Jackie Wilson, Ricky Nelson, Dennis Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Cass Elliot, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The Righteous Brothers were the duo of Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley. They were one of the biggest acts of the mid-Sixties, but in 1968 Hatfield and Medley split to pursue solo careers.
In 1974, the duo got back together, signing a deal with the songwriting/production team of Brian Potter and Dennis Lambert. Potter and Lambert thought “Rock And Roll Heaven” would be the perfect song for The Righteous Brothers comeback, so they had the duo record the song they day after signing them.
Here are the lyrics to the song.
If you believe in forever
Then life is just a one-night stand
If there’s a rock and roll heaven
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band, band, band
Jimmy gave us rainbows
And Janis took a piece of our hearts
And Otis brought us all to the dock of a bay
Sing a song to light my fire
Remember Jim that way
They’ve all found another place
Another place to play
Remember bad bad Leroy Brown
Hey Jimmy touched us with that song
Time won’t change a friend we came to know
And Bobby gave us Mack the Knife
Well look out, he’s back in town
They’ll all be there together
When they meet in one big show
There’s a spotlight waiting
No matter who you are
Cause everybody’s got a song to sing
Everyone’s a star
(Everybody’s got to be a star)