Facts about Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison died at 52 years old
Born: April 23, 1936
Birthplace: Vernon, Texas, United States
Best known as: Singer of "Only the Lonely"

Buy from Amazon.com: Music by Roy Orbison


Roy Orbison Biography

Roy Orbison was a Texas singer and songwriter who turned out a string of hits in the 1960s, including “Crying,” “Only the Lonely” and “Pretty Woman.”

Roy Orbison grew up in Texas and studied geology at North Texas State University, but he had been performing almost since getting his first guitar at age 6. “Only the Lonely” was his first hit single in 1960, and it helped make his 1961 album Lonely and Blue a success as well. It was about this time that he began wearing his signature dark sunglasses onstage.

Orbison’s distinctive vocal style and soulful ballads soon made him a star on pop and country charts in the U.S. and the U. K. (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later called his voice “Warbly yet forceful, vulnerable yet strong, grandiose yet intimate.”) But in 1966, Roy Orbison’s wife was killed in a motorcycle accident and his career stalled. Two years later two of his sons were killed in a fire and his career hit bottom.

During the 1970s, Roy Orbison focused on country music and remained an audience favorite, and by the end of the decade several of his songs had become hits by other artists, including Linda Ronstadt‘s cover of “Blue Bayou” (1977) and Don McLean’s version of “Crying” (1980). In 1986 David Lynch‘s film Blue Velvet helped make a hit again of his 1963 song “In Dreams,” and Orbison made a popular comeback.

Roy Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and the same year he released a two-disc set of re-recorded hits. In 1988, he joined The Travelling Willburys, a “supergroup” that included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. His 1989 album, Mystery Girl was released posthumously and became his biggest-selling record.

Extra credit

Roy Orbison and Emmy Lou Harris won a Grammy for their 1980 collaboration on “That Lovin’ You Feelin’ Again,” and Orbison and k. d. lang won a Grammy for their 1987 duet “Crying.”


Related Biographies

Something in Common with Roy Orbison