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"
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.