Posted by themusicsover on December 6, 2009
April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988
Roy Orbison was one of rock ‘n roll’s true pioneers. With his uniquely beautiful and almost operatic voice, dark and sometimes melodramatic songs, and a sound that was equal parts country and rockabilly, Orbison would directly inspire such future greats as Bruce Springsteen, Bono, John Lennon and Tom Petty. When describing his voice, Barry Gibb once called it “the voice of God.” Orbison began learning to play the guitar his father gave him on his 6th birthday. As he grew older, he found his biggest inspiration in the music of Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizzell, and Hank Williams. In 1956, he was offered a contract by Sun Records who released his first single, “Ooby Dooby” which sold a respectble 200,000 copies. Over the course of the next several years, he recorded no less than 20 top 40 singles, including “Only The Lonely,” “In Dreams,” “Crying,” and of course, “Oh, Pretty Woman.” When the British Invasion hit American soil during the early ’60s, Orbison, like many of rock’s first generation, were ironically pushed aside for the bands who found great inspiration in them. The ’70s found Orbison’s music embraced by some of the era’s most popular musicians. Artists like Springsteen, Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons and Nazereth were covering his songs either on record or in concert. In 1987, Orbison experienced a career revival thanks to a televised tribute and live album that found him sharing the stage with Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Jeff Lynne, Jackson Browne, and Bonnie Raitt. A year later, he was back in the studio as part of the Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup that included George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan. Their first release sold over 3 million copies in the U.S. alone. During that time working with the Wilburys, Orbison was also busy recording what supposed to be his comeback album, Mystery Girl. Later that year found him making a handful of promotional dates for the Wilburys, putting the finishing touches on his album, and preparing for what he hoped would be his second shot at stardom. But on December 6, 1988, Roy Orbison, 52, died of a heart attack at his home. During the year that followed, Mystery Girl was released and it’s first single, “You Got It,” was a smash hit that cracked the top 10 in the U.S. The album reached #5 in the U.S. and #2 in the UK, putting him back where he was when he started his career, on top.
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