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Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison was the epitome of a rock and roll star. Orbison ranks as one of the coolest cats of the rock and roll era, with just a bit of a rough edge about him to lend to his authenticity.With the anniversary of Orbison's 70th birthday approaching this month, interest in his music has never been higher. Apart from his music now showing up in Bollywood movies, there’s even an ongoing petition to the US Postal Service to create a commemorative stamp in his honour. And with a brand new Essential Roy Orbison collection, 2006 looks all set to be possibly a big year for his music.

Roy Orbison Then
After recording a song titled Ooby Dooby with his band The Teen Kings, Orbison heeded the advice of a friend (a little known country singer called Johnny Cash) and visited Memphis to meet Sam Phillips. Phillips, the proprietor of a recording studio known as Sun Records, had already produced hits for Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Sensing that Ooby Dooby could be a big hit, Phillips moved quickly and brought The Teen Kings to Sun. A small national hit, Ooby Dooby was quickly followed by several similar records. But the other Sun singles met with no success and by the late 1950s he was convinced that his true calling was as a songwriter.
After leaving Sun in 1957, he signed to music publishers Acuff-Rose. He wrote hits for a number of musicians of the day. Claudette became a top 30 hit for The Everly Brothers and Down the Line was an instant hit for Jerry Lee Lewis. Upon learning that RCA wasn't going to renew Orbison's contract, the small and upcoming Monument Records’ owner Fred Foster promptly signed him in 1960. Orbison finally found his voice with Monument Records, for beginning with the #2 hit Only The Lonely, eight top ten hits would follow in the next four years, and it would pave the way for the biggest selling record of his career, Oh Pretty Woman. Selling over seven million copies in 1964 alone, it topped the American charts and UK Charts, holding at bay even The Beatles.

Roy Orbison Now
Orbison joined legends George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne to form the one-off band the Traveling Wilburys. Their successful album set the stage for Orbison's best work in over two decades, Mystery Girl. Sparked by She’s A Mystery To Me (co-written by U2’s Bono) and You Got It (written by fellow Wilburys Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne), it reached #1 in seven countries and became the biggest selling record of his career. 1992 saw the release of King Of Hearts, an album of previously unissued songs.
In December 1988 at the age of 52, Roy Orbison died suddenly from a heart attack after complaining of chest pains at the home of his mother. His career had seen its share of ups and downs, but he re-emerges every decade or so to zap himself back into mass consciousness, reminding us of the unique sound that was and always be Roy Orbison. His most famous song is now automatically associated with Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta in India, after it became a hit in the Bollywood blockbuster Kal Ho Naa Ho. After soaking up the sun in Kerala for a couple of weeks, his wife Barbara Orbison turned up in Mumbai recently, and was gracious enough to give us an exclusive interview.

The Record: Tell us about the fan base today for Roy’s music and why do you think he still resonates with people?
Barbara Orbison: There are fans of his music everywhere! (Laughs) I was surprised…I went to a party here last night and people knew a lot of Roy's music…they even knew about the Black and White Night concert! I think it’s because Roy basically really did what he felt and because it was his own truth. You’re only able to do that if you write your own music and sing. Very few singers who have written their music have been really able to be true to themselves. They have to sing somebody else’s voice…

TR: There’s an ongoing petition to get him a stamp of his own. Tell us about that.
Barbara: This is a stamp we’re trying to petition. It takes three years to vote for it and we’ve even got members of the US Congress voting for it. In the meantime we have this website where you can go and sign the petition ( or you can go to and sign for it from there. A lot of stars have signed the petition, like Brad Pitt and Bono.

TR: Can you share with us a few personal words of yours about him?
Barbara: He loved the applause… It wasn't about his ego; he was real humble about it. I always loved that about him. Roy really loved being Roy. He loved when people would come up to him and say, ‘Roy can I have your autograph.’ He never got tired of it. He always toured… That was something that Roy did. I was dating Roy when he lost his kids, and even in the saddest parts of his life, the first thing he would say was, ‘I want to go on tour.’

You can read the rest of our feature on Roy Orbison in the March 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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