Roy Orbison's 'Oh, Pretty Woman' To Receive Iconic Riff Award
Orbison will have the distinction of being the first ever recipient of this bestowal. MHOF honors musicians from all genres and eras of recorded music, and inductees are nominated by current members of the American Federation of Musicians and by other music industry professionals.
Roy Orbison began making his mark on the music world in 1956 while recording for Sun Records, which boasted a roster of unparalleled talent that also included Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. However, it was during his years on Monument Records in the early-to-mid 1960s when Orbison's commercial success reached stratospheric levels, the apex of which was "Oh, Pretty Woman," a song co-written by Orbison and Bill Dees. It went on to sell 7 million copies, spend three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and also topped the British charts for three weeks. It was unprecedented for any American to have this kind of chart-topping power simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic in the Beatles-dominated year of 1964.
While Roy Orbison, who is already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, is acknowledged to have one of the most uniquely beautiful and haunting voices in popular music, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum is focusing on the unmistakable riff that kicks off "Oh, Pretty Woman." It remains a truly iconic and timeless refrain, evidenced by the innumerable cover versions of the song by artists as diverse as Al Green, a young John Mellencamp, Johnny Rivers, Bon Jovi, Green Day, and Van Halen, the latter of which achieved a sizeable hit with their own 1982 version, showcasing the splendiferous guitar theatrics of group leader Eddie Van Halen. The song inspired the title of and is heard on the soundtrack from Pretty Woman, the blockbuster film starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
Although Roy Orbison passed away in 1988, his presence endures. This is due, in large measure, to the ongoing effort to preserve his legacy by sons Alex, Roy Kelton, and Wesley Orbison, whose Roy's Boys LLC manages their father's name, likeness, image, and musical output, offering a series of audio and DVD reissues, as well as newly curated releases. November 26 (the Tuesday before "Black Friday") will mark the release of The Monument Boxset, a vinyl-only package that includes three classic Monument-era Orbison studio albums (Lonely and Blue, Crying, In Dreams) as well as a fourth album, centered around the track "Oh, Pretty Woman" that had never previously existed. Entitled Oh! Pretty Woman, the LP consists of tracks reflective of the period and, as determined by the team at Roy's Boys, to be the songs that would have comprised a fourth Monument studio album.
"Oh, Pretty Woman," a staple of Roy Orbison's live performances, is also featured as an encore in the Black & White Night DVD, just released through Sony's Legacy Recordings this week. The concert, filmed in September of 1987, features an all-star line up that includes outspoken Roy admirers Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, JD Souther and Tom Waits, among others, joining Orbison on the show's closer, "Oh, Pretty Woman."
The time-honored tune was, in fact, the last song Roy Orbison ever recorded. On December 4, 1988, just two days before his sudden passing, he performed at a Cleveland-area venue, that concert performance was taped and is set for release this December 3rd as The Last Concert – 25th Anniversary Edition through Legacy Recordings. Orbison, typically, closed his shows with "Running Scared," but the engineer ran out of tape that night almost 25 years ago, thus making his penultimate number, "Oh, Pretty Woman," the final document of his melodious brilliance.
BM submitted this story.