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Roy Orbison's Music

Updated on August 22, 2014

Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison in 1965
Roy Orbison in 1965 | Source

Introduction - Roy Orbison's Music

Roy Orbison's music has had an influence on some of the greatest talents in Rock n Roll music. His music and voice inspired many artists and was admired by his peers.

Leonard Cohen, another singer and song writer of the sixties admired Orbison. In his biography it says, “In rehearsal Cohen would tell the band to ‘make it like Roy Orbison would do it.’ The musicians had a picture of Orbison pasted into their chart folder.”

At one of his concert's Elvis referred to Roy Orbison as the "greatest singer in the world". Elvis and Roy became friends, by the way.

Bob Dylan once wrote, “Orbison transcended all the genres. With Roy, you didn’t know if you were listening to mariachi or opera. He kept you on your toes. [He sang] his compositions in three or four octaves that made you want to drive your car over a cliff. He sang like a professional criminal. His voice could jar a corpse, always leave you muttering to yourself something like, ‘Man, I don’t believe it’. There wasn’t anything else on the radio like him.”

Bruce Springsteen once said he wanted to sing like Roy Orbison. He incorporated Roy Orbison into his song "Thunder Road". He sang, "As the radio plays Roy Orbison singing for the lonely ..."

Even the Beatles were influenced by Roy Orbison.

The list goes on.


Roy Orbison


Roy Orbison - Career

So who is Roy Orbison? What's that you say, who is Roy Orbison? Everyone knows Roy Orbison, well, at least his music.

Roy Orbison, the legend, was born April 23, 1936 in Texas, and yes, his real name is Roy Orbison. Like many other talents of his era, he began singing in local bands. Anyone from the fifties and sixties remembers singing with a band or just with your friends, trying to duplicate the great sounds you heard on the radio. And, like many singers of that time he cut a record, "Ooby, Dooby". Johnny Cash told him to take the record to a record company, which he did, Sun Records. Things didn't work out to well at Sun and Roy left to become a song-writer. As a matter of fact, while in his song-writing only phase he wrote the song "Claudette" which went on to be a hit for the Everly Brothers.

Through a twist of fate, Roy wound up signing with Monument, to record songs. During that time he continued to write songs and one of the songs he wrote with one Joe Melson went to the top though didn't quite reach number one. It was called, "Only the Lonely".

In 1964 he hit the top with "Pretty Woman". There may be some of you who think the song was written for the movie of the same name, but that is definitely not the case. "Pretty Woman" sold over seven million copies in 1964, JUST 1964, I don't know how many since.

Tragedy struck Roy Orbison in 1966 when his wife, Claudette, was killed in a motor cycle accident and two years later two of his sons were killed in a house fire. In 1969 he married Barbara Jacobs who would later become his manager.

In 1987 Roy Orbison was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.

Roy Orbison's "Its Over"

Roy Orbison Songs

  • Ooby Dooby
  • Uptown
  • Only the Lonely
  • Blue Angel
  • Running Scared
  • Crying
  • Candy Man
  • Dream Baby
  • Leah
  • Working for the Man
  • In Dreams
  • Falling
  • Blue Bayou
  • Mean Woman Blues
  • Pretty Paper
  • Its Over
  • Pretty Woman

And many more.

Roy Orbison - The Man

One of the mysteries surrounding Roy Orbison was his constant wearing of sunglasses. Some said he wore them because he was blind, others said because he had other problems but the truth is, Roy Orbison had myopia and as a result had to wear very thick glasses. Not what most people thought. The first time he wore sunglasses on stage was when he forgot his reading glasses. He liked the look and continued to wear sunglasses from that day forward. The look fitted his songs. He never danced around the stage or wiggled his hips, he was serious and his songs were touching. The sunglasses added a mystique along with the mystery. You couldn't see his eyes so it was hard to tell what he might be thinking.

His voice was something new to Rock N Roll, he had a high tenor voice and would end his songs on a high note. He had artistic vision and used it in his songs along with emotionally charged words. Nik Dirga wrote in a Roy Orbison CD review, "Roy Orbison was the voice of sorrow. But sorrow never sounded quite so sweet. For nearly 30 years, Orbison was the quintessential spokesman for the brokenhearted, with his trademark sunglasses, hiding his eyes, so all you would focus on was the voice." Roy Orbison's wife, Barbara repeated one of the things Roy said [about him wearing black], "He'd say, 'They need one man to be sad and lonely, and they gave me the crown,'" . Did you know he dyed his hair? It wasn't naturally black but he thought black fit in better with his image.

He was a song-writer par excellence. He wrote songs that told stories. They would take you through an episode from beginning to end. Since I mentioned "Pretty Woman" earlier, let's take a look at that. The song is about a guy who sees a pretty woman walking down the street. This is the "kind I like to meet" he says. He thinks about how good she looks and how he would treat her right. He goes on to tell how it looks like she's walking away from him and though its not what he wants, well, he'll try again tomorrow. But wait, she walks back to him. A short story, but a story nonetheless. A story a lot of guys can relate to.


Speaking of song writing, you now know Roy Orbison wrote "Claudette" for the Everly Brothers but did you know the Everly Brothers wrote "Only the Lonely" for Roy Orbison? Oh the twists in Rock N Roll.

At a time when the British Invasion was wiping out American Rock N Roll singers, Roy Orbison thrived. Not only that, he did a concert tour in England with the Beatles and received top billing during the tour! I might add here, the Beatles are another group that admired Roy Orbison while Roy admired John Lennon.

Roy Orbison was a big fan of radio controlled model airplanes which he flew in competitions. He liked classic cars and he loved movie theaters and watching movies.

His Friends

We all have friends, but when we think of celebrities we don't always think of them as having friends. Of course being celebrities, it is most likely their friends are too. Buddy Holly was a high school friend of Roy's. Roy was also friends with Ricky Nelson, Otis Redding, and Patsy Cline. More tragedy in an already overloaded life. He was close friends with k.d Lang and Martin Sheehan. If you remember, way back in the beginning of this piece I mentioned how Johnny Cash advised Roy to go to a record company? Well, Roy and Johnny were neighbors and friends. Another unlikely friend of Roy Orbison was Glenn Danzig. As a matter of fact, they wrote a song together in 1987 called "Life Fades Away".

Roy had coronary by-pass surgery in 1978 after collapsing while running up some bleachers. He died at his mother's home in 1988 of a massive heart attack, he was 52. Just before his death he agreed to team up with Bob Dylan, Beatle George Harrison, Jeff Lynne from Electric Light Orchestra and Tom Petty to form a group called The Travelling Wilburys. He was on tour with the group when he died. He is sadly missed but his music will live on for generations. There will never be anyone like Roy Orbison again.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

Roy Orbison - Leah

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    • Al Greenbaum profile image

      Al Greenbaum 

      2 years ago from Europe

      I remember watching BLACK AND WHITE NIGHT. The way they played PRETTY WOMAN was brilliant. But the best performance was CRYING. One on his own. Brilliant singer.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      So glad you enjoyed Romeos. He has always been one of my favorites and his songs have that slightly haunting quality. Enjoy your week as well as it starts on a rainy Monday here.

    • Romeos Quill profile image

      Romeos Quill 

      4 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

      What a great biography you've written about one of the greatest male rock singers of the twentieth century; definitely one of Elvis Presley's favourite singers as well, like you mentioned.

      Interesting to know that he wrote for Phil and Don and that the Everly's, in turn, wrote a hit for him as well - just shows how generous some musical artists can be when they have been blessed with an overflow of talent.

      Thanks for a splendid Hub; enjoyed this one Mary and sharing across the board.

      Have a good week;


    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Thanks for reading Jane. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

    • profile image

      Jane Holmes 

      6 years ago

      Great hub about Roy Orbison. He was one of my favorites and I still listen to his music. Your hub was very complete and informing.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      You're welcome prairieprincess. Obviously, I thought he was great and had a really great sound. Thanks for stopping by.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Tillsontitan, my Mom was a great Roy Orbison fan, and it's nice to learn more about him. He sounds like a classy guy who had his own style, and did not follow the trends. Thanks for an awesome hub!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Shoot Pamela, now I can't remember it either but I know what you mean. There was a great group here doing the Beatles and they were the blah blah..... I've always loved Roy Orbison and his music and I hope to see it live on. So nice to know you enjoyed this so much! Your votes and share are really appreciated.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      This was such a treat to read. It's one of those 'I don't want it to end' kind of hubs. These are such interesting facts you have ferreted out for us.

      I'm not sure if there still is, but in Waikiki there was a well-known group playing at one of the theaters six nights a week -- for years -- who were very popular because of the imitations they could do. One of the members of the group would do Roy Orbison almost every night.

      I guess there are groups like that all over the world (but I can't remember the term used for their kind of entertainment. It's not called 'imitations' exactly.) It's one more way that Roy Orbison is remembered and reintroduced to the new generations.

      Great hub, tillsontitan! Voting up, awesome and sharing.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Yes Moonlake, Pretty Paper was a lovely song. I'm not sure if Crying or The Crowd was my favorite. Thanks for the vote and share.

      Peg he was definitely incredible. So much we don't know about the performers we love.

      TheListLady so you'll be running around singing Running Scared...each place you go ;)

    • TheListLady profile image


      6 years ago from New York City

      Just the other day I was singing "Running Scared" - don't know why but also a big Roy Orbison hit. As children we always sang his songs - they were so...well singable! Thanks for a great hub. And now of course all day I will be singing again. Pretty Woman was also a favorite!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Learned lots of information here about the great Roy Orbison that I never knew. What an incredible singer, songwriter and performer. I remember these songs so well. You did a great job reviewing this talented artist and sharing the lesser known story of his life. Very enjoyable read.

    • moonlake profile image


      6 years ago from America

      Running Scared my favorite. I also love Crying and Pretty Paper. Well I guess I like all his songs. Voted up on your hub and shared.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      You certainly know how to put a smile on my face Maria. When someone you admire compliments like you did here, it is an honor and a true compliment....glad you enjoyed and that Roy Orbison brings you memories.

      Sending hugs your way.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Mary,

      What a well written and most interesting summary of one of the sultriest voices of our time. I always love the detail you put into your work, especially the list of Roy's most notable songs.

      Only the Lonely is my absolute favorite. Excellent work, as usual.

      Voted UP and UABI. Love, Maria

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Thanks's a fun way to pay tribute to artists who filled my teenage years so well with their music.

      Mike I am glad you enjoyed my hub and appreciate your vote.

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      6 years ago from London

      I drove all night!! Without being my favorite, I have great respect for Roy Orbison!

      Nice presentation - voted up and awesome!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      Mary, I'm loving your hubs on golden era of music. Thanks for this introduction to an amazing artist.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      You're welcome Gypsy. Your comment is so well we sail away on dreams...loved that. Have a good one!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      6 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Thanks for this great hub on Roy Orbison. He's one of my favorite singers. His voice and his songs just take you sailing away on dreams. Many a tear has been shed on his songs. Enjoyed this lots and passing it on.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      So right Carter. His voice range was incredible, I forget how many octaves he covered. Thanks for the votes and share.

      Thanks rotoaces .

      xstatic, I think his songs touched many a heart! I don't think I can pick a favorite.

      Pamela, glad you enjoyed. There's always things we don't know about other people ;)

      Michelle, how right you are! Wouldn't it be nice if the rest of the world could collaborate :)

      How lucky you were Mhatter to see him live. That must've been quite an experience!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this! Roy Orbison is one of my favorites. Arlene and I got to see him live, in the 70's.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Ah, interesting way songwriting collaboration works out! That's the way it should work, with each giving ideas, like the way Orbison and the Everly Brothers did. Awesome!! Up & around!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Terrific hub. I always loved Roy Obirson when I was young. He sang some great songs. I didn't know many of the things about him on a personal level. I enjoyed your hub very much.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      6 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Great hub Mary! I was a fan of Roy Orbison, but not aware of how the sunglasses came about or all the personal tragedy in his life. He wrote many great songs. Pretty Woman was a favorite, and Crying brought a tear to many eyes over the years, including mine.

    • rotoaces profile image

      Peter Hernandez 

      6 years ago from fantasy land.

      He's a classic!

    • carter06 profile image


      6 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      You no Til I can't say I'm a huge fan...but my older sister used to listen to him a lot when I was growing up, and oh that voice of his is truly outstanding on the high notes (crying etc)in some of his songs right? You gotta love a good voice:) Great hub...VUAI & shared...

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Thank you Carol. Roy Orbison was a legend in his own time.

      Oh HawaiiO, we are going to have to start calling you the "Great Philosopher"... a comment from you contains so much wisdom, which, I must admit, I agree with 200%.

      Effer, we don't have to leave the 50s and 60s behind, we can bring it with us, no kicking or screaming, just singing and remembering! Even though Roy sang "Its Over", it isn't!!

      Thank you Eddy.

      Oh Sligobay, thank you for catching my many read it and never noticed, or were too polite to tell me. Do I have egg on my face! He had a lot of tragedy in his life...his elder brother later died in a motor cycle as well, but he kept on entertaining.

      Now Bob, that might've just been his hairdo and his dark glasses ;), but you're so right, he had an amazing voice.

      Byshea, yes, its too bad he didn't get to see the release of their second album.

      WND, that's what I meant. So many stories circulated about his eyes, part of his 'mystique'. Glad you enjoyed the videos too.

      Oh Rolly, you are most welcome. Those days will always live on in our hearts. May I return hugs and blessings to you?

      You are most welcome Vincent. I can remember singing his songs over and over and back in the day I could actually hit the high notes with him!

    • profile image

      Vincent Moore 

      6 years ago

      Roy Orbison had a voice like no other, so many hits. "Pretty Woman" was a steelar hit. As much as a great entertainer he was his life was shadowed with tragedy, losing chidlren in a fire and his wife to an accident as well, I guess his heart just couldn't take anymore of the pain and gave up on him. I listened to all of his music growing up in the sixties, through seventies. He was right up there with Elvis and others. Well done, thank you for sharing his talent, pics and sounds with us. Voted up, tweeted and shared.

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image

      Rolly A Chabot 

      6 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Mary... the man had an amazing sound and it was so very distinctive. Miss those days... Thank you for the reminder...

      Hugs and Blessings

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      6 years ago from Alabama

      Roy Orbison is so talented and his songs just live on. I had heard he was blind. The sunglasses fit his image good. Wonderful hub and love the videos you picked.

    • byshea profile image


      6 years ago

      I've always liked Roy and have most of his songs. I liked the way his career and exposure was revived again with the Traveling Wilburys.

    • diogenes profile image


      6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      I always thought he was a bit weird. He had an amazing voice which has stood the test ot time.

      This was a very good article and packed with information.


    • sligobay profile image


      6 years ago from east of the equator

      Roy Orbison is among my favorite artists but I didn't know about his personal tragedies. This is a great tribute. Check the date of death because it seems as though Roy suffered a heart attack after death in my reading.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub and thank you for sharing.


    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      The wonderful, totally "unique," voice of Roy Orbison.....ahhhhh, I hear his songs in my head, at the moment. Every song you listed is etched in my memory. One of these days, gf, I seriously need to move on..from the '50's-'60's....but I'll be kicking the whole way.

      Thanks for know what it takes to make my day!.....UP+++

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      6 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Who can forget his incredible growl in Pretty Woman? Back in the day when men could overtly comment and wolf whistle at women without fear of the moral police arresting them for stalking, Orbison embodied in music what every red-blooded man was thinking, feeling, experiencing, fantasizing. And it was all good. Why? Because back in the day, America was more accepting of its raw, rugged, and human sexuality--the compelling and beautiful force that keeps the earth turning on its axis. A rather unassuming Clark Kent-like musician named Roy Orbison shattered--and continues shattering--our country's hypocrisy about certain issues now banished to the Phantom Zone of political correctness. Thank you so much, Mary, for sharing this wonderful tribute to not just an exceptionally talented musician and singer, but an incredible individual who extolled the virtues of what makes us human.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      In the history of current music..He is one of my all time favorites. Thanks so much for the feature. Voting UP and Pinning.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I totally agree Bill. His voice range was incredible and he wrote some rockin lyrics.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      "It's Over" of the great rock songs ever. The man had a voice to die for. Great look back, Mary! I'm going to go put my Orbison cd on right now. Wow that man could sing!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      We all have different tastes DDE, but he had an incredible voice. Thanks for stopping and commenting, I appreciate it.

      Jools, if you lived in the sixties you had to listen to Roy Orbison. I believe he was humble too. The tragedies in his life did not make for a partying kind of guy.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      6 years ago from North-East UK

      My grandparents were huge Roy Orbison fans so I grew up listening to him :o) Great hub, I liked all of the tributes from other artistes at the beginning; he always struck me as a really humble but very talented guy and it is nice to read about others admiration of him.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I heard some of his songs but I am not a big fan you have a well researched Hub. Thanks for sharing more about Roy Orbison


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