Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Ten Favorite Roy Orbison Songs: In Celebration Of Roy's 75th Birthday

I grew up in the 2000's and currently am surrounded by music of the 2010's. However, I grew up listening to music from the earlier decades, and I've been extremely fond of the music of Roy Orbison. I was introduced to Roy Orbison's music when listening to the oldies station to and from school. The first of these hits included "Oh, Pretty Woman" and "Only The Lonely." Then, I began to listen to the cassettes of Roy's greatest hits and have since been lured in to more and more of his music. My favorite that I've ever bought has to be "The Essential Roy Orbison," that includes just the right touches of a great career. I have been a fan and continue to be a fan. While Roy Orbison isn't as big a name as Elvis or The Beatles, he sure made one of the biggest impacts in the history of music. Those who look up to him in the music field include Elvis (who called him "the greatest singer of all-time), The Beatles, Bob Dylan (who said he sang like he was on an Olympian mountaintop), Bruce Springsteen (who gave Roy Orbison's induction speech), the Bee Gees, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne (from the Electric Light Orchestra), Bono (of U2), Elvis Costello, k.d. lang, and the list keeps going on, and on, and on.

I wanted to share ten of my favorite songs from Roy Orbison, and believe me, this is a task. It's like buying a box of a dozen cannoli and picking out the ten that are the best. In this instance, there are so many to choose from. My list is only one list, everybody is going to have a differing opinion, but I'm going to tell you why these songs are my favorites.

#10- California Blue- #10 was the hardest to choose, because it all depends on my mood and how I feel. "California Blue" was the one that won the tiebreaker between several. This song was on Roy Orbison's comeback album, "Mystery Girl," which was released a few months after Roy's tragic death in 1988. The album was released in 1989. This song tells the story of a longing to return to a beautiful California, and the way California is portrayed makes me want to head there right now. If you watch the official video to the song, there's a good chance that you're going to want to join me. "California Blue" just brings you into a peaceful setting when you listen to it, no matter how you're feeling or what's on your mind.

#9- Oh, Pretty Woman- #9 and #8 were extremely tough to rank, because both are just really good songs. For #9, I have what happens to be Roy's most famous song, "Oh, Pretty Woman." This hit was from 1964, when the British Invasion hit America and The Beatles were becoming big. This song still made it into the top five hits of the year, and it surely deserved it. This hit was inspired by a comment from co-writer Bill Dees,"a pretty woman never needs any money," when Roy's wife, Claudette, was heading into town. This hit has a ton of swagger and rightfully took over the charts. It tells the story of an attraction to a pretty woman and how he longs for her to be with him. Just as he's about to head on home, she walks to him. This is the hit that first introduced me to Roy Orbison, and the rest has been history.

#8- Only The Lonely- Roy Orbison's first hit was "Ooby Dooby" back in 1956 with the Teen Kings, but it was "Only The Lonely" from 1960 that gave him the recognition as a solo performer. It's a simple song about how the lonely will understand how he feels, but it also sets a mark for Roy Orbison's personality. Many of Roy's songs were about the pain of breaking up, the loneliness of a lover, or how it truly feels to be in love. It's completely real and that's what Roy demonstrates. "Only The Lonely" starts off with an opening of the backup singers singing the chorus, and then once Roy enters the song, the rest is magic and a really catchy tune that makes for a good hit.

#7- It's Over- "It's Over" compares being dumped to the apocalypse. When the girl breaks up with the guy, his whole world starts to crumble, and this feeling is very common in the event of a breakup. "It's Over" quenches the tragedy that happens when a girl leaves a guy, because she doesn't want him anymore, but instead another guy who she feels is better. This and "Oh, Pretty Woman" were the only songs in 1964 to hit #1 in the United Kingdom, and rightfully so. Roy injects this song with a passion that gives the song a feeling in which it really is over and that a breakup can really hurt this bad.

#6- Blue Bayou- Most people know about the Linda Ronstadt version from the 1970's, but before that came the 1963 version from Roy Orbison. This happens to be on Senator John McCain's list of favorite songs as well, but it has been on my list before that. Like "California Blue," it paints such a picture and brings you to a completely different place. The lines to the song are soothing like a back rub and the chorus just sends shivers down your spine. Roy pulls off such a wonderful tenor when he's performing the song and is backed by such a wonderful backup to make the song even more soothing. If given the choice as to which version I like the best, I would pick this one by a mile. I can't think of very many instances in which the Roy Orbison version was topped. It's just a lot to top.

#5- Crying- This may be one of the biggest weepers of all-time. Some songs give you the situation and leave you to come up with the action. This song gives you the situation and the action. Being inspired by an old flame, the song talks about a break up in which the woman believed it was time to move on and the man was still in love with the woman. This makes the man feel so bad, he starts crying over her. It goes to show you that a man is much more emotional than status quo demonstrates. The original hit was from 1961, but Roy Orbison later did a duet with k.d. lang in the 1980's. The duet version is often considered one of the best duets of all time, and I couldn't agree more. Regardless the version, this song is one of the saddest songs with some of the best execution.

#4- In Dreams- One night, Roy Orbison went to sleep, and woke up the next morning with this song after forgetting about his previous idea. It starts off telling about "a candy-colored clown they call the Sandman," in what has been named one of the best lyrics from It tells the story of a dream and how he dreams about the woman he loves. However, he wakes up and finds that she's gone. It goes to show you how dreams only last for so long, and very often, end just when things are getting good. The lyrics to this song are just fantastic, the arrangement is fantastic, and the notes that Roy hits bring me into the dream with him as I listen to him describe it. I personally prefer the 1963 version best, but the remake for "Blue Velvet" is still a really good remake. A sequel, "In The Real World," was also made for this song. However, the original is a dream in itself.

#3- Running Scared- "Running Scared" describes the fear a man has that someone who's better (however "better" may be defined) than him comes and wants his woman of who he loves. He seems to be an ex, given the fact that he's coming back. We are grown to dislike this guy who wants to take the man's woman back, as he seems to be confident that he's going to get her back. Like many of Roy's songs, the arrangement strays from the two lines and a chorus. It warms up line by line, and then takes a jump as soon as it's crunch time. Ultimately, we find out who the woman decides she wants to be with. This song is basically every man's fear that a woman may leave him for someone that allegedly may be "better" than them. It's not so much a feeling of envy, but more so a feeling of anxiety or being worried. The guy who the man worries about may demonstrate any form of personality, but Roy does a good job making him look arrogant in order to fit the occasion. Sometimes it is the occasion. There is also an 1980's version of this hit, though I like the original from 1961.

#2- Crawling Back- This is a hit from 1965 and it's a very dark, but effective piece of music. After reading a bit of a Roy Orbison biography, I read that his wife, Claudette, had engaged in an affair and the two divorced, but remarried shortly after. After hearing about this and listening to the lyrics of "Crawling Back," I can't see what other form of inspiration could've been injected into this song. This song demonstrates that despite what a spouse (a woman, in this instance) may do, that they, and only they, could keep them crawling back. This song always happens to leave my hair standing. Whether it's the music or how Roy Orbison's voice is so strong and passionate, this is one of those hidden gems that is very often looked over and yet it's about the pain in which a man loves a woman so much, that he would forgive her even after something so heartbreaking, and the true power of love. Regardless the occasion, this song is going to leave an impact.

#1- The Crowd- Picking a single favorite Roy Orbison song... that's very hard to ask. For me, it was easier than most of my other decisions, and my favorite is his 1962 hit "The Crowd." It strays away from the two lines and a chorus, and tells a story about coping. This song tells the story of a man doing what he needs to do to get through life each and every day and how he blends into the crowd. However, he really misses the woman in which he has had so much fun with. Things haven't been the same since she's gone, but he continues to get through life, hoping that some day, she will come back to him. The song brings out a kind of hope and how hope may very well be the cruelest curse of mankind, and how each of us cope with the pain of loss, and rely on the hope in order to give us the emotional strive. Like "Running Scared," "The Crowd" starts out slows, kicks it up a notch, goes full force, and then ends like a free fall. It's just a fantastic arrangements. Then when you put Roy Orbison's voice into the picture, and you've got yourself magic!

Okay, that's my own personal list. These are the ten songs that have spoken to me the most when listening to Roy Orbison's music. It's hard to believe that it's only his 75th birthday and unfortunate that he had to leave so soon, but one thing he left behind was a good legacy. Roy Orbison is one of music's finest gifts, with his tenor voice that puts a touch of opera into rock and roll. He's truly left behind a great legacy! Happy Birthday, Roy Orbison, you're truly missed.

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