Today we’re rocking out to classics like “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “In Dreams,” “Blue Bayou,” and many others. It’s only right on the 40th Roy Orbison Day.
Roy Orbison, “Pretty Woman” live 1964
Roy Orbison day became official in Odessa, Texas in 1981 to celebrate the Texas-born musician and his significance in rock ‘n’ roll. He was a true rock pioneer, and his music influences so much of the music we hear today today, whether it’s underground rock or upbeat pop stars.
Orbison didn’t hit the ground running, though. He had terrible stage fright and was said to be very socially awkward. But his college band, The Teen Kings, were good—so good that Sun Records eventually offered them a deal, thus kicking off Orbison’s professional performing career. Writing credits became an issue, leading to the band’s breakup. Orbison, however, stuck with his passion and set out to make a name for himself.
His first huge hit was “Uptown,” released in 1960. The song has been covered many times. He started touring with big shots at the time like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. One day in 1963, he broke his regular prescription glasses and had to wear his prescription sunglasses on stage instead. The new (accidental) look helped soothe his stage fright and became his trademark.
Roy Orbison, “Uptown” live 1960
Though Roy Orbison Day focuses on this Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer’s amazing legacy, it’s an opportunity to remember his life in general. Orbison experienced a number of tragedies throughout his short but remarkable life. During the late ’60s, the singer lost his first wife during a motorcycle accident when she got pinned under a truck and died. Just a few years later, his two young sons died in a house fire while he was away on tour. He almost completely pulled away from public life while he struggled with his grief. He eventually remarried an 18-year-old woman named Barbara when he was 33. They had three kids and stayed together for the rest of his life. He eventually made his comeback in the ’80s, reviving his career when he toured with The Eagles.
He died of a heart attack while touring in 1988 at the early age of 52.
Roy Orbison, “In Dreams”
Though some call Orbison the “saddest” man in rock, his music still inspires musicians to this day. He was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame the year before his death. A year after, Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night was broadcasted showing some of his last live performances and friends performing covers.
As we celebrate him on the 40th Roy Orbison Day, we leave you with some of our favorite underrated songs of his below.
Roy Orbison, “Penny Arcade” live in Australia 1972
Roy Orbison, “Devil Doll”
Roy Orbison, “Twenty-Two Days”
Roy Orbison, “Night Life”
Roy Orbison, “Can’t Wait”
Roy Orbison, “The Comedians” live for Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night