Friday, May 24, 2024

Roy Orbison “Pretty Woman” Celebrates 50 Years Since it was Number 1


We are in the middle of the three week period, 50 years later, of Roy Orbison’s great number 1 run with “Oh, Pretty Woman.” Along the years the “Oh” has dropped off ( I never understood it anyway). The song was written with Orbison’s friend Bill Dees in honor of Roy’s first wife Claudette. (I know this because the indefatigable Bob Merlis sent me a nice press release.)

Dees said once in an NPR interview: “[Claudette] came bopping down the stairs and said, ‘Give me some money’. ‘What do you need money for?’ [Roy] said. She said ‘Well, I’ve got to go to the store’, and as she walked away they were whispering and kissing bye bye, away from me. I stood up at the table, and he came back to the table, and I said ‘Does this sound funny? [singing] Pretty woman, don’t need no money’. He laughed, and he said ‘There’s nothing funny about pretty woman’. He right away started, [singing] ‘Pretty woman, walking down the street’. By the time she got back, we had it written.”

Roy died much too young, at age 52, of a heart attack in 1988. I must admit when I hear his voice I still get goosebumps. He was one of the founding fathers of rock and roll at a very young age. I never knew him, but for many years I was close friends with his smart and beautiful second wife Barbara. She passed away a three years ago after a short bout with cancer. “Pretty Woman” could easily have been about her. She was devoted to Roy, and made sure his legacy lies on.

If you’re not sure who Roy Orbison was, look him up. “Pretty Woman” was just one of many great songs including “Crying,” and “Blue Bayou.” Everyone has a favorite. I love “In Dreams.”

Roy and Barbara, and Claudette, this is for you:


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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