Pretty Woman is Roy Orbison’s biggest hit, the best known of all his songs. It took the already famous Orbison and rocketed him to a whole new stratosphere. So would you believe the track was all but written in 45 minutes? The song’s co-writer, Bill Dees, remembers that it all started when Roy’s wife showed up…
…and she came bopping down the stairs and said, “Honey give me some money,” and “What do you need money for?” he said. And she said, “Well I gotta go up to the store.” And as she walked away they were like whispering and kissing bye bye you know away from me, and I stood up at the table. And he came back to the table, and I said “Does this sound funny, uh ‘pretty woman don’t need no money,’?” And he laughed and he sat down and he said, “There’s nothing funny about pretty woman.” And right away he started uh ‘pretty woman walking down the street…’ Well by the time she got back we had it written!
Roy Kelton Orbison, nickname “the Big O,” was born April 23, 1936 in Vernon, Texas. With a four octave vocal range, and a powerful yet vulnerable sound, both Dylan and Elvis called him one of the greatest singers of the century. In the words of Dwight Yoakum, his voice sounded like “the cry of an angel falling backward through an open window.”
An accomplished songwriter, he was known for his complex, unorthodox compositions: “Pretty Woman,” “Running Scared” and “Crying,” just to name a few.
Orbison was distinguished from his contemporaries by his onstage persona. He remained nearly statue-still, compelling the audience with his voice and songs. He became famous for wearing black Wayfarers, a result of forgetting his eyeglasses on a plane and being forced to sport dark sunglasses.
Roy Orbison’s career began in the 50’s and hit a stride in the 60’s. He saw a resurgence of fame in the late 80’s with the formation of the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.
Orbison passed away December 6, 1988.