Meaning of Unchain My Heart by Joe Cocker & Song Story

Many modern music lovers know this song from the version of the owner of the inimitable husky baritone, British singer Joe Cocker. However, the first performer of the composition was the incomparable Ray Charles, the legend of soul and rhythm and blues.

Unchain My Heart was written by musician and songwriter Robert Louis Sharp Jr., better known as Bobby Sharp. She became the main achievement in his creative career and, according to the author, saved his life.

History of the song Unchain My Heart

One Sunday afternoon in 1961, he was sitting at his parents’ house in Harlem and wondering where to get money to buy heroin. Bobby later recalled:

I’ve been hooked for a long time. I needed to write something catchy.

To the sound of television programs that were watched in the next room by his father and mother, Sharp composed Unchain My Heart. The whole process took less than an hour.

The next day, he ran through the producers he knew, hoping to attach a song. Teddy Powell offered him fifty dollars on the condition that Bobby credit him as a co-writer. Sharp agreed and, in order to avoid any problems with the official release of the track, he signed under the pseudonym Agnes Jones. That was the name of his cousin.

The meaning of the song Unchain My Heart

The words of the composition leave no doubt about what the song is about. The protagonist turns to the woman with a request to let him go, but from the context it becomes clear that she left him a long time ago and does not mind if he forgets her. The trouble is that he fails to erase his beloved from his heart.

Unchained My Heart – Ray Charles

Ray Charles recorded the song in late 1961. The backing vocalists were singers from the American band The Raelettes. The famous musician David “Fathead” Newman played the saxophone.

By that time, Ray Charles was already a super-popular performer who recorded the hit songs Georgia on My Mind and Hit the Road Jack. With this track, he developed success. Unchained My Heard peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.

The further fate of Bobby Sharp

In 1963, with Unchain My Heart already a hit, Bobby sold the rest of the rights to the song to Teddy Powell for $1,000. Shortly thereafter, Sharpe learned that he was entitled to royalties. He began to sue the producer, but the process dragged on for years.

In 1968, Bobby ended his career as a songwriter and musician. There were several reasons for this:

I couldn’t write doo-wop stuff. I tried to write what I didn’t like. Plus I tried to save my life. I had to stay away from drugs. I’m sick of this business. My life was worth more than my songs.

Sharpe was treated for addiction at Metropolitan Hospital and then stayed there as an employee. He counseled drug addicts trying to get back to a healthy life.

In 1988, Bobby was able to reclaim the rights to Unchain My Heart. He later recalled:

By that time, I had completely changed my lifestyle. I became a counselor at a drug clinic, moved out of San Francisco, and didn’t think about music at all until I found out I could get the copyright back. And it really changed my life. I used to work at the post office, at the factory, but I never received social insurance. Luckily, I’m fine now.

L.A. Times, 2004

Unchain My Heart – Joe Cocker

In 1987, Joe Cocker recorded the song and made it the album’s title track. His version peaked at number eleven on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and number forty-six on the UK chart. She didn’t make it into the Billboard Hot 100 at all.

In 1992, he released Unchain My Heart again. The single peaked at number seventeen on the UK Singles Chart.

Although the achievement of the song by Joe is not as impressive as the success of the composition of Ray Charles, it is the Cocker version that is most popular with modern listeners. For three decades, fans of popular music managed to forget the first performer of the track.

Unchain My Heart cover versions

In 1963, Unchain My Heart was recorded by The Rivingtons on the Doin’ the Bird LP.

Then Unchain My Heart was performed by Trini Lopez (Trini Lopez). She was included in his album Trini Lopez at PJ’s.

In 1994, Unchain My Heart sang a cappella for The Bobs.

In 2012, the song Unchain My Heart was performed by actor and musician Hugh Laurie. He included it as a bonus track on the album Didn’t It Rain.

Interesting Facts

  • Ray Charles’ Unchain My Heart is similar to his On Mint Julep.
  • In Australia, John Howard’s government used the track in a television advertisement for a new Goods and Services Tax.

Unchain My Heart lyrics

Unchain my heart, baby let me be
Cause you don’t care, well please, set me free
Unchain my heart, baby let me go
Unchain my heart cause you don’t love me no more
Everytime I call you on the phone
Some fellow tells me that you’re not at home
Unchain my heart, set me free
Unchain my heart, baby let me be
Unchain my heart cause you don’t care about me
You got me sewed up like a pillowcase
But you let my love go to waste
Unchain my heart, set me free

I’m under your spell, like a man in a trance, baby
Oh but you know damn well, that I don’t stand a chance
Unchain my heart, let me go my way
Unchain my heart, you worry me night and day
Why lead me through a life of misery
When you don’t care a bag of beans for me
Unchain my heart, oh please, set me free

Unchain My Heart Lyrics

Unchain my heart, baby, leave me alone
‘Cause you don’t care, so please set me free.
Take the chains off my heart, baby, let me go.
Remove the chains from my heart, because you don’t love me anymore.
Every time I call you
Some guy says you’re not at home.
Remove the chains from my heart, set me free.
Take the chains off my heart, baby, leave me alone.
Remove the chains from my heart, because you don’t care about me.
You tied me hand and foot
But you let my love go to waste
Remove the chains from my heart, set me free.

2 times:
I’m under your spell like I’m in a trance, baby
Damn it, you know I don’t stand a chance.
Remove the chains from my heart, let me go my own way.
Remove the shackles from my heart, because of you I have no rest day or night.
Why turn my life into endless misery
If I’m an empty place for you.
Remove the chains from my heart, please set me free.

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