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By: Roy Orbison (born April 23, 1936, in Vernon, Texas, died of a heart attack December 6, 1988, in Hendersonville, Tennessee.)
Between 1960 and 1965 Orbison had 15 Top 40 hits. In 1987 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1989, he was posthumously inducted into the National Academy of Popular Music's Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004, Orbison ranked #37 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
"Oh, Pretty Woman" was released on the Nashville, Tennessee based Monument Records in 1964. It was Roy's last big hit before his career stalled due to two major tragedies.
As "Oh, Pretty Woman" was climbing the charts Roy filed for divorce from his wife Claudette (the inspiration for the song). They remarried in 1966. Sadly Claudette was killed in a motorcycle accident 2 months after their reconciliation.
In 1968 Orbison's 2 oldest sons died in a fire at his home in 1968 while he was on tour.
Roy's career was revived in the late 1980s, when he joined the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty. In 1988 Roy filmed the television special A Black and White Night with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne and the core members of Elvis' TCB band.
In the midst of releasing a new album (titled Mystery Girl) Orbison died of a heart attack on December 6, 1988 at age 52.
In 1991 Orbison posthumously won the the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for a live recording of "Oh, Pretty Woman" from A Black and White Night.
In 1999 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It is also included in the permanent collection of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #222 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Chart position: #1 (US), #3 (UK).
It was #1 for three weeks in the US in September and October 1964. It sold more records in its first 10 days than any previous 45 single in history.
It was preceded at #1 by "The House Of The Rising Sun" (The Animals) and succeeded by "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" (Manfred Mann).
The Top Ten Songs: October 3, 1964 (US Billboard Hot 100).
- "Oh, Pretty Woman" (Roy Orbison)
- "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" (Manfred Mann)
- "Bread and Butter" (Newbeats)
- "Dancing in the Street" (Martha and the Vandellas)
- "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" (Shangri-Las)
- "G.T.O." (Ronny and the Daytonas)
- "It Hurts to Be in Love" (Gene Pitney)
- "The House of the Rising Sun" (Animals)
- "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" (Gale Garnett)
- "Save It for Me" (Four Seasons)
Orbison also wrote such songs as "Blue Angel", "Blue Bayou", "Claudette", "Crying", "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)", "Down The Line", "In Dreams", "It's Over", "Leah", "Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)", "Ooby Dooby", "Running Scared", "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again", and "You Got It".
The title was inspired by Orbison's wife Claudette interrupting a conversation between Orbison and Dees to say she was going out. When Orbison asked if she needed money, Dees interjected that "a pretty woman never needs any money." The song grew out of that comment.
Members of the Beatles remembered Roy working on and performing the song while on tour with them in 1963. George Harrison later said (in The Beatles Anthology book,) ". . . He had the most incredible voice. He'd had so many hit songs and people could sit and listen to him all night. He didn't have to do anything, he didn't have to wiggle his legs, in fact he never even twitched, he was like marble . . . Roy would be out there every night and at the end he'd be singing, 'She's walking back to me, do do do do da do-do...' And the audience would go wild. We'd be waiting there and he'd do another big encore and we'd be thinking, 'How are we going to follow this?'"
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