SANTA ANA, Calif. – Bobby Hatfield, who with partner Bill Medley rose from playing Santa Ana bars and Anaheim High School proms to international stardom as the Righteous Brothers, died Wednesday night in Kalamazoo, Mich., the group’s manager said.

Police responded to a call at the Radisson Hotel in Kalamazoo at about 7 p.m. EST. Five minutes later, in Miller Auditorium – where the Righteous Brothers were to begin their tour – an announcement was made that the concert had been canceled because of a personal emergency. Hatfield, 63, died in his sleep, manager David Cohen said, adding that the singer’s family had received few details on the cause of death.

“It’s the biggest shock of my life,” Cohen said.

Hatfield was born Aug. 10, 1940, in Beaver Dam, Wis.

He and Medley began performing together in 1962, singing in a style that would be dubbed “blue-eyed soul.”

The duo’s breakthrough came in December 1964 with the release of their ballad “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” The song hit No. 1 and in the decades since has become a standard on American radio.

The Righteous Brothers scored four more Top 10 singles over the next two years, including another No. 1, “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.”

After a lull in the late ’60s, they came back with another Top 10 hit in 1974, “Rock And Roll Heaven.”

This March, Hatfield and Medley received the highest honor for a pop music artist, induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“I had pretty much given up hope,” Hatfield said at the time. He then joked, “I’m just thrilled that I’m still around to accept it in person. I really didn’t want to have to send a videotaped acceptance speech after I was gone.”

(c) 2003, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-11-05-03 2256EST

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