Out of Leesburg, Georgia, Roy Hamilton sang at the local church choir since he was six years old before he and his family moved to New Jersey in 1943. Now at fourteen years old, he began singing at that church choir until he was introduced to secular music shortly after he turned seventeen. In addition to being a vocal talent, he was also a gifted commercial artist that even saw some of his work displayed among a number of New York City art galleries.
At a professional level, Roy Hamilton performed gospel music either as a soloist or member of a group. He also sang at nightclubs, hoping sooner or later he’d catch his big break. That began in 1954, but in 1956 Hamilton began developing a lung condition that saw the seriousness of it reach its peak in 1969, the same year he’d make his final recording as a singer. On July 20, 1969, after spending a week in a coma due to a cerebral hemorrhage, Roy Hamilton passed away at the age of forty years old. His legacy leaves behind ten studio album recordings, ten compilation albums, and sixty singles.
Top 10 Roy Hamilton Songs
#10 – It’s Only Make Believe
Originally performed by Conway Twitty in 1958, “It’s Only Make Believe” became the big breakthrough single that catapulted him from a relatively known singer to stardom. For Roy Hamilton, it was one of his final recordings before his medical issues caught up with him and took his life. Although it was not a chart-topping hit for Hamilton like Twitty’s was, his soulful, R&B-style performance made it an emotional favorite as Hamilton carried this heartbreak song in a manner only the exquisitely talented lyricist can pull off.
#9 – Without a Song
In 1955, “Without a Song” from Roy Hamilton’s bluesy performance charted at number seventy-seven on the US Billboard Hot 100. Its original was written and performed in 1929 for a short-run musical play, Great Day. Bing Crosby was the first to make the song a charted success in 1929, which has since been covered many times over by a variety of artists, including Hamilton’s soulful R&B performance that contributed to its popularity during the mid-1950s.
#8 – Hurt
“Hurt” was Roy Hamilton’s fourth single that was released in 1954 and was a number eight hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. This piano-rich and soulful ballad has been covered by a number of other artists since Hamilton’s original performance and remains an emotional favorite, not just among the fans, but the artists who’ve performed it.
#7 – Ebb Tide
In 1954, “Ebb Tide” became Roy Hamilton’s third hit single to earn chart success as it peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Originally, it was performed in 1953 by Carl Sigman. Aside from sharing the same title, this big band-style song, which Hamilton turned into an R&B classic, has nothing to do with the 1937 motion picture, nor its title track. Hamilton’s melodic carry of his vocals flowed just as beautiful as the wavy-orchestral that made Ebb Tide as beautifully performed as it deserved as a song.
#6 – If I Loved You
“If I Loved You” was the second hit Roy Hamilton would realize in 1954, which demonstrated he was not a one-hit-wonder that would fade into obscurity anytime soon. Originally written in 1945 by Rodgers & Hammerstein for the feature film, Carousel, If I Loved You became a number four hit for Roy Hamilton on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. This swingy declaration of love ballad demonstrated Hamilton’s vocals at their best, which also served as an inspiration for a number of other artists, including Bing Crosby, to cover the song as well.
#5 – You Can Have Her
Recorded and released in 1961, “You Can Have Her” was a number six hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for Roy Hamilton, as well as a number twelve hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song’s popularity has seen covered many times over by notable artists such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Waylon Jennings, and The Righteous Brothers. Hamilton’s performance of You Can Have Her was among his more uptempo singles, which was a rare treat from what he’s typically better known for bluesy, R&B ballads. Hamilton’s lyrics clearly demonstrated his range of talent was as broad as the style of music he performed.
#4 – Forgive This Fool
From the 1954 album, You’ll Never Walk Alone, “Forgive This Fool” became yet another top ten hit single for Roy Hamilton as it peaked at number ten on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. This soft and jazzy ballad charted as high as number thirty on the US Billboard Hot 100. For Hamilton, his lyrical talent brought one of his most notable blues performances, which became a big, beautiful part of his trademark sound.
#3 – Don’t Let Go
From the 1958 album, You Can’t Have Her, the first single, “Don’t Let Go,” became a classic hit for Roy Hamilton on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart as it peaked at number two. On the US Billboard Hot 100, Don’t Let Go reached number thirteen. Hippy and uptempo, “Don’t Let Go,” was among Hamilton’s best hits that have become one of his signature singles that demonstrated his vocal talent at its versatile best.
#2 – You’ll Never Walk Alone
Roy Hamilton’s debut single, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” was recorded and released in 1954 and served to be Hamilton’s big breakthrough into the music industry, at least as an R&B artist. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it was a number one hit for Hamilton. Originally, the song was written for the 1945 feature film, Carousel, which featured Julie Jordan’s musical performance. Since then, a number of versions have been performed by a long list of artists, including Roy Hamilton.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone,” became an unofficial anthem to support emergency workers and medical staff who’ve been in the front lines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. This song of support has been used often as a method to lift up people’s spirits to let them know they’re never alone, even when it sometimes feels like they are.
#1 – Unchained Melody
Recorded in 1955, Roy Hamilton’s “Unchained Melody” was one of four versions of this hit single that came out that year that would appear on the US Billboard Hot 100. The other two artists who also made a chart hit out of the song were Jimmy Young, Les Baxter, and Al Hibbler. Since then, it has become one of the most recorded singles of all time, most notably by The Righteous Brothers in 1965.
“Unchained Melody,” was a number one hit for each of these artists as its ballad of declaring undying love became more than just some best-selling single. It became a jukebox standard. For Roy Hamilton, in addition to “Unchained Melody,” peaking at number one spot on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it also charted as high as number six on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Top 10 Roy Hamilton Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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