Roy Orbison

~ Person


Annotation last modified on 2010-01-09 17:19 UTC.

Also performs as: Lefty Wilbury


Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988), also known by his nickname The Big O, was an American singer-songwriter, best known for his trademark sunglasses, distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country and western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis. His greatest success came with Monument Records between 1960 and 1964, when 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top 40, including "Only the Lonely", "Crying", and "Oh, Pretty Woman". His career stagnated through the 1970s, but was revived by several covers of his songs and the use of "In Dreams" in David Lynch's film Blue Velvet (1986).

In 1988, he joined the Traveling Wilburys supergroup with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne and also released a new solo album. He died of a heart attack in December that year, at the zenith of his resurgence. His life was marred by tragedy, including the death of his first wife and his two eldest sons in separate accidents.

Orbison's vocal instrument bridged the gap between baritone and tenor, and music scholars have suggested that he had a three- or four-octave range. The combination of Orbison's powerful, impassioned voice and complex musical arrangements led many critics to refer to his music as operatic, giving him the sobriquet "the Caruso of Rock". Elvis Presley as well as Petty and Dylan, have stated his voice was, respectively, the greatest and most distinctive they had ever heard. While most male performers in rock and roll in the 1950s and 60s projected a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison's songs instead conveyed a quiet, desperate vulnerability. He was known for performing while standing still and solitary and for wearing black clothes and dark sunglasses, which lent an air of mystery to his persona.

Orbison was initiated into the second class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 by longtime admirer Bruce Springsteen. The same year he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame two years later. Rolling Stone placed Orbison at number 37 on their list of The Greatest Artists of All Time, and number 13 on their list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. In 2002, Billboard magazine listed Orbison at number 74 in the Top 600 recording artists. In 2014, Orbison was elected to America's Pop Music Hall of Fame.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1956 Ooby Dooby Roy Orbison 1
1961 Lonely and Blue Roy Orbison 3
1961 Roy Orbison at the Rock House Roy Orbison 1
1962 Crying Roy Orbison 4
1963 In Dreams Roy Orbison 4
1965 There Is Only One Roy Orbison Roy Orbison 1
1965 Orbisongs Roy Orbison 1
1966 The Orbison Way Roy Orbison 1
1966 The Classic Roy Orbison Roy Orbison 1
1967 Sings Don Gibson Roy Orbison 1
1967 Cry Softly Lonely One Roy Orbison 1
1969 The Many Moods of Roy Orbison Roy Orbison 1
1970 Hank Williams the Roy Orbison Way Roy Orbison 1
1970 The Big O Roy Orbison 1
1972 Roy Orbison Sings Roy Orbison 1
1972 Memphis Roy Orbison 1
1973 Milestones Roy Orbison 1
1977 Regeneration Roy Orbison 1
1979 Laminar Flow Roy Orbison 1
1986 Class of '55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison & Johnny Cash 5
1989 Mystery Girl Roy Orbison 8
1990 Pretty Woman Roy Orbison 1
1992 King of Hearts Roy Orbison 4 2
2013 Dream Baby Roy Orbison 1
Beautiful Dreamer Roy Orbison 1
Lonely and Blue / Crying Roy Orbison 1
Only the Lonely Roy Orbison 1
Purely... Roy Orbison Roy Orbison 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1965 Roy Orbison Sings Roy Orbison / Jerry Lee Lewis / Tommy Roe 1
1967 Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits Roy Orbison 1
1972 The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison Roy Orbison 6
1981 Golden Days Roy Orbison 2 2
1986 All-Time Greatest Hits Roy Orbison 1
1987 In Dreams: The Greatest Hits Roy Orbison 3
1988 For the Lonely: 18 Greatest Hits Roy Orbison 1
1988 For the Lonely: A Roy Orbison Anthology 1956-1965 Roy Orbison 1
1988 The Legendary Roy Orbison Roy Orbison 1
1989 Rare Orbison Roy Orbison 1
1989 An Original Roy Orbison 1
1989 Best-Loved Standards Roy Orbison 1
1989 Blue Bayou Roy Orbison 1
1989 Monumental Hits Roy Orbison 1
1989 The All-time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison Roy Orbison 1
1990 Rare Orbison II Roy Orbison 1
1990 The Singles Collection 1965-1973 Roy Orbison 2
1990 Love Songs Roy Orbison 2
1990 Swingin' Rockin' "O" Roy Orbison 1
1990 The Legendary Roy Orbison Roy Orbison 1
1991 The Rock 'n' Roll Era: Roy Orbison: 1960-1965 Roy Orbison 1
1992 His Greatest Hits Roy Orbison 1

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