Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988) was an American singer-songwriter, best known for his distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. His greatest success came with Monument Records between 1960 and 1964, when 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top Forty, including “Only the Lonely“, “Crying“, and “Oh, Pretty Woman“. His career stagnated through the 1970s, but several covers of his songs and the use of “In Dreams” in David Lynch‘s Blue Velvet revived his career in the 1980s. In 1988, he joined the supergroup Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne and also released a new solo album.
While most men in rock and roll in the 1950s and 1960s portrayed a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison’s songs instead conveyed a quiet, desperate vulnerability. He was known for performing while standing still and solitary, wearing black clothes and dark sunglasses which lent an air of mystery to his persona.
Orbison was initiated into the second class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 by longtime admirer Bruce Springsteen. The same year he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame two years later. Rolling Stone placed Orbison at number 37 on their list of The Greatest Artists of All Time, and number 13 on their list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. In 2002, Billboard magazine listed Orbison at number 74 in the Top 600 recording artists.
Artist on map: Roy Orbison (born: Vernon, Texas, United States, April 23, 1936; died: Madison, Tennessee, United States, December 6, 1988).