Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison

With his operatic voice and melodramatic lyrics, Roy Orbison pioneered a brand new style of rock in the early 1960's.

He was one of the founding fathers of the rock and roll genre, and his influence is visible among subsequent generations of rockers, including Bruce Springsteen and Chris Isaak.

"Ooby Dooby" was the title of Orbison's first widely distributed recording, made in 1956. The song met with some success but the recordings that followed were failures. By the late 50's he had nearly given up all hope of becoming a famous performer and was primarily concentrating on song-writing. He bounced from one studio to another, finally finding his voice at Monument Records in 1960 with "Only the Lonely". This song firmly defined Roy Orbison's style; melodramatic ballads telling the story of the underdog.

Orbison had 15 more Top 40 hits with Monument, including 1964's "Oh, Pretty Woman" which made it to the top of the charts at the height of the British invasion. After this success, however, his fortunes began to decline. Many felt his new songs were beginning to sound like inferior repetitions of his older recordings, and at the same time, new trends in rock and roll made his style sound somewhat antiquated.

Not only did he have hard times in the music business but in the late 60's his life became even more tragic than his lyrics. First, his wife died in a motorcycle accident, then his house burned down killing two of his sons. He experimented with a career in acting but failed miserably. Orbison did not come back to the music business until the mid 80's when one of his songs was featured on a movie soundtrack. He went on to create several new albums, one of which, Mystery Girl, was especially successful. Unfortunately, Orbison died before it hit the charts in early 1989.

During the decade of his most creative songwriting, Roy Orbison contributed greatly to the development of the rock and roll genre, infusing his music with the sound of country music and his vocals with operatic flair. His sound was original and unique and his effects have been lasting and great.

* At the beginning of the British invasion, it looked like Orbison would weather the storm. Early on, he toured with the Beatles, and John Lennon even credited him with inspiring the song "Please Please Me," which was the Beatles' first song to top the British charts.

* Bob Dylan counted Orbison as one of his favorite artists. He wrote in his autobiography: "There wasn't anything else on the radio like him. I'd listen and wait for another song, but next to Roy the playlist was strictly dullsville... gutless and flabby."

* Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 by Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen said at the induction ceremony that one of his own musical goals was to sing like Roy Orbison.

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