Roy Orbison is one of the most popular singer/songwriter’s of all time, enjoying a long string of hits and working alongside many famous names in the music industry, including Johnny Cash, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Born in Texas in 1936, Roy showed an interest in music at an early age. He started playing the guitar at the age of six and wrote his first song at the tender age of eight. At the age of 13, Roy formed his first band, The Wink Westerners. The music of the band exuded a country style, but increasingly they experimented with pop and rock and roll rhythms, later renaming the band The Teen Kings.
Roy’s big break came about in 1956, when The Teen Kings were signed to Sun Records by Sam Philips. Although the band had a minor hit with Ooby Dooby, they split up in 1956, allowing Roy to focus his attention on song writing.
After signing to Monument Records, success landed at Roy’s door. During the 1960s, 22 of Roy’s singles were a Top 40 hit, with popular titles including Only the Lonely, Oh, Pretty Woman and Crying.
Roy became known for his unique sound, structure and style – he’d dress head to toe in black. He earned the nicknames ‘the caruso of rock’ and ‘the big O’.
Events took a turn for the worse for Roy, however, when his wife died in a motorcycle accident in 1966, and two of his children perished in a house fire just a couple of years later. After a hiatus from music, Roy returned to the scene, signing for Mercury Records, Monument and then later Virgin Records.
Cover versions of Roy’s songs were released by artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Van Halen and Don McClean, which boosted Roy’s profile. This encouraged him to reignite his career by forming a new rock band with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne, called the Traveling Wilburys. The single You Got It became a huge success, and Roy’s first to hit the US charts for 25 years.
Although Roy died of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 52, his music still lives on, and in 1989, he became the first deceased musician since Elvis Presley to boast two albums in the top five simultaneously.
The year before Roy died he recorded the song I Drove All Night (written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly), although it wasn’t released until 1992. The song featured on Roy’s posthumous album, King of Hearts, and became a massive hit, reaching number seven in the UK charts and doing equally well in other countries. It matched the success of Cyndi Lauper’s version of the track. A video also featured including Jason Priestley and Jennifer Connelly, who were popular acting names of that era.
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