Roy Orbison In 20 Songs

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Roy Orbison photo by David Redfern and Redferns
Photo: David Redfern/Redferns

The voice of the great Roy Orbison is among the great treasures of popular music history, and we’ve set ourselves the challenging task of doing a précis of his catalogue, including smash hits and some hidden gems, as we present Roy Orbison In 20 Songs.

We begin in the Sun Records era of ‘Ooby Dooby’ in 1956, before moving to the Monument Records period in which Roy carved his legend. His peerless run of hits in the early 1960s made him a hero for millions of fans and fellow musicians, including all of his later compadres in the first incarnation of the supergroup created in tribute by some famous friends, the Traveling Wilburys.

The 1960 single ‘Only The Lonely,’ later to enter the Grammy Hall of Fame, set in motion a classic run of 45s that we honour here with such further melodramatic gems as ‘Love Hurts,’ ‘Crying’ (later a UK No. 1 for Don McLean) ‘In Dreams’ and ‘Blue Bayou’ (which gave Linda Ronstadt such success a generation later).

One of the few American artists to withstand the British Invasion, The Big O recorded to a remarkably high standard throughout his career. He never sounded more lovelorn than on the angst-filled ‘It’s Over,’ nor more elated than on the happy-ending chart-topper that became his signature, Oh, Pretty Woman.’

Roy Orbison - In Dreams

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From his highly creative period at MGM, there are such US top 40 hits as ‘Ride Away’ and ‘Breakin’ Up Is Breakin’ My Heart.’ This era also produced Orbison’s elegant version of Don (‘Sea Of Heartbreak’) Gibson’s 1957 side for RCA, ‘Too Soon To Know.’

After the huge success of the Traveling Wilburys’ first album in 1988 — which had the admirable effect of making an entire dynasty of music fans realise what a huge contribution this modest man had made to pop history — Roy found new success, sadly posthumously, with ‘You Got It,’ a brilliant update of his classic sound which he co-wrote with fellow Wilburys Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. ‘I Drove All Night’ became another stirring solo success in 1992. Roy’s sudden death from a heart attack at just 52 years old in 1988 robbed the world of one of its greatest voices.

Listen to Roy Orbison In 20 Songs on Spotify


Format: Union Jack flagUK English


  1. louise daw

    September 9, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    I was a young teen when I first heard him sing. I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario and beleive that I saw him perform here? Now over 50 years later, his music still makes me happy, sad, nostalgic and so grateful for having this artist music as part of my growing up. and to this day, will stop and listen with tears of joy when his musicis played what a great gift thanks.

  2. jimmy mcmillan

    September 9, 2015 at 3:45 pm


  3. Ruth Little

    September 9, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    There are many artists who’s voice you recognise as soon as you hear the first word, Roy Orbison is one of those unique artists that blessed us with his amazing voice, fantastic songs and incredible talent!!!! He will live on, just like all those other unique talents, who have since passed on!!! It does not matter what I am doing, if a song by Roy Orbison is playing, I will stop and listen to the end…..that is pure talent! A talent that engrosses you no matter what you are doing and you have to stop and listen!!!! Congratulations Roy Orbison… achieved the ultimate in your career and you did get your wish……to be remembered! You are so remembered the world over…..and so deserving!!!! Kind regards Ruth xx

  4. Geoff

    September 10, 2015 at 6:37 am

    What ????? No “Workin’ For The Man” ??? I know it would be hard to narrow down his Top 20, but surely you could find room for it. Personal opinion – I’d drop “Pretty Paper” which I think is pretty corney, to make way for my absolute favourite Big O song … the one which introduced me to the Great Man back in 1962 or ’63

  5. Tony Barber

    September 10, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    I saw Roy Orbison some 50 odd years age on stage at a cinema in East London.
    That is an experience I will never forget. There was no screaming and shouting whilst he was singing (not like the idiots today). People were just mesmerized by that amazing vocal range.
    I went on to buy ever record he released and am as bigger fan now as I was all those years age.
    Simply the best.

  6. Mike den Braber

    October 26, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Way not this song,
    Last her love on our last Date His from 1972 (MGM)
    This a great Song
    Simply the best

  7. Brent Payne

    October 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Roy was the inspiration in my life which spawned a long career in music for me. I loved and sang his music semi-professionally for 20 plus years. His cd’s are all I play, at home and on the road. I met him in 1965 in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and saw him perform every time that he came to Canada. He is my lifelong obsession, musically. I have also read many books about him. My dream would be to meet Wesley, Alex and Roy Kelton Junior. God love the ” Man” and his family.


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