Roy Orbison

Rock legend Roy Orbison was born on this date in 1936 in Vernon, Texas.

Though Orbison eventually became one of rock 'n' roll's greatest

balladeers, he started his career as a country singer. Johnny Cash saw

Orbison performing in the early '50s and brought him to the attention of

Sun Records, where Orbison released his first single. The track, 1956's

rockabilly classic "Ooby Dooby," was a minor hit, and Orbison cut other

tunes such as "Chicken Hearted" and "Problem Child." None of these

follow-ups hit it big, so he decided to concentrate on a career as a

songwriter and he eventually scored with "Claudette," a song about his

wife, that was recorded by the Everly Brothers.

After trying it as a singer again, this time with Monument Records,

Orbison had a #2 smash with 1960's "Only The Lonely." This

ballad established his trademark: brooding songs of love gone wrong set

to sweet melodies and sweeping strings and featuring his signature high-

pitched vocals (he also was distinguishable by his dark glasses,

dark suits and jet-black hair). Other hits that followed in this vein

during the next five years included "In Dreams," "Crying," "It's Over"

and "Dream Baby." But Orbison could also rock. He had his biggest hit

ever in late 1964, at the height of Beatlemania, when the uptempo

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Orbison,_Roy/Oh_Pretty_Woman.ram">"Oh, Pretty Woman" (RealAudio excerpt) went to #1. But the future wasn't

to be so bright for Orbison. Although he toured with the Beatles for a time --

John Lennon considered him a big influence -- Orbison's move to MGM

Records in 1965 ended his string of hits. In 1966, his wife was killed in a

motorcycle accident, and a few years later, two of his children died in a house

fire. A try at an acting career failed and numerous attempts to restart

his recording career in the '70s resulted in unimpressive albums.

Although he was highly regarded in England at the time, he was nearly

forgotten in the U.S., with the exception of a few covers of his songs by

the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Van Halen. But then, in 1986, director

David Lynch used "In Dreams" on the soundtrack to his groundbreaking

film "Blue Velvet," and an Orbison renaissance was born. Orbison re-recorded

some of his hits for an album produced by T-Bone Burnett. But most

conspicuously, Orbison joined George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and

Jeff Lynne in the Traveling Wilburys, a just-for-the-fun-of-it group in

which they all used aliases and sang old-fashioned rock-'n'-roll songs.

Their debut, 1988's Traveling Wilburys, Volume One, proved

enormously popular and received a great deal of radio airplay. Orbison

was back. In 1987, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and others

performed in a televised tribute to him that was a big success. But

just as Orbison was in the position to really capitalize on this

re-appreciation, he was felled by a heart attack in December 1988.

Mystery Girl, the last album he recorded, was released

posthumously in 1989 and became his biggest seller. His influence

continues to be felt in the music of artists as diverse as Springsteen,

Bonnie Raitt, Chris Isaak, the Mavericks and others.

Other birthdays: Captain Sensible (the Damned), 43; Billy Gould (Faith No

More), 35 ... Steve Clark (Def Leppard), 1960-1991.