About the song
Roy Orbison was one of the most influential and distinctive singers of the 1960s, known for his powerful voice, complex melodies and emotional lyrics. He had a string of hits, such as “Only the Lonely”, “Crying”, “In Dreams” and “Running Scared”, that showcased his unique style of rock and roll, pop and country.
One of his most famous and enduring songs is “Oh, Pretty Woman”, which he co-wrote with his friend and collaborator Bill Dees. The song was inspired by Orbison’s wife, Claudette, who interrupted a conversation between the two men to announce she was going out. Orbison asked her if she needed any money, and Dees joked, “Pretty woman never needs any money.” That sparked the idea for the song, which they finished in less than an hour.
The song tells the story of a man who sees a beautiful woman walking down the street and tries to get her attention. He praises her appearance and asks her to spend some time with him, hoping that she is not already taken by someone else. He is overjoyed when she turns back and joins him, implying that she likes him too.
The song has a catchy and upbeat melody, driven by a distinctive guitar riff that was played by Jerry Kennedy. The riff was based on a Duane Eddy-style twangy sound, but Kennedy added some extra notes to make it more original. The song also features a saxophone solo by Boots Randolph, who was famous for his own instrumental hit “Yakety Sax”.
The song was recorded on August 1, 1964, at RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee, with Fred Foster as the producer. It was released as a single on Monument Records in August 1964, and became an instant success. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on September 26, 1964, and stayed there for three weeks. It was also a number one hit in many other countries, such as the UK, Canada, Australia and Germany.
The song sold over seven million copies worldwide and won several awards, including two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song in 1991. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. It is widely considered as one of the greatest songs of all time, and has been covered by many artists, such as Van Halen, Al Green, John Mellencamp and Bonnie Raitt.
The song also inspired the title and soundtrack of the 1990 romantic comedy film Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. The film used Orbison’s original version of the song, as well as a remake by Van Halen. The film was a huge box office hit and boosted the popularity of the song among a new generation of fans.
Roy Orbison died of a heart attack on December 6, 1988, at the age of 52. He left behind a legacy of timeless music that continues to touch millions of people around the world. His song “Oh, Pretty Woman” is one of his most beloved and celebrated works, a classic rock and roll anthem that celebrates love and beauty.