Roy Orbison was a singer, songwriter, and musician who began his career in 1953. He is typically associated with the rock, pop, country, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll music genres. Orbison is also known for his distinctive performances, as he always stood motionless while wearing dark sunglasses and black clothes. In addition to his solo career, Roy Orbison was a founding member of the Traveling Wilburys, which was a rock supergroup. The group also included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty. From 1960 to 1966, Roy Orbison was at the height of his fame. He then suffered some personal tragedies that set his career back, but he had a resurgence of his popularity during the 1980s. Sadly, Roy Orbison died in 1988 from a heart attack. Roy Orbison released 23 studio albums, 24 compilation albums, four live albums, and 92 singles during his solo career, and many albums and singles topped the charts. Here are the 10 best Roy Orbison songs of all time.
10. Pretty Paper (1963)
‘Pretty Paper’ was the fourth single from the 1963 album ‘In Dreams.’ It was a top ten hit in the UK, Australia, and Canada. The song was written by Willie Nelson, who played it for Fred Foster of Monument records. Foster then pitched the song to Orbison, and the single was released in 1963. A year later, Willie Nelson released his own version of the song.
9. Blue Bayou (1963)
‘Blue Bayou’ topped the charts in Australia and Ireland and peaked at number three in the UK. The song was less successful in the United States, reaching only number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the third single released from the 1963 album ‘In Dreams.’ Orbison co-wrote the song with Joe Melson. In 1977, singer Linda Ronstadt covered the track, and it became her signature song.
8. In Dreams (1963)
‘In Dreams’ is an operatic ballad-style song that was written and performed by Roy Orbison. The singer released this song in 1963 and was the title track of the album of the same name that was released in the same year. A notable feature of the song is its structure, as it has seven musical movements. In the song, Orbison sings through two octaves, which is out of range for most rock ‘n’ roll singers. The song charted in the UK for five months, and it reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.
7. You Got It (1989)
‘You Got It’ was a single from the 1989 album ‘Mystery Girl,’ which was Roy Orbison’s 22nd studio album. The single was released posthumously, as Orbison had died the previous year. With the release of this song, Roy Orbison reached the top ten for the first time in 25 years. It was a number one hit on the Adult Contemporary Chart and reached number nine of the Billboard Hot 100 and number three in the UK charts. Although ‘You Got It’ was released by Orbison as a solo artist, he co-wrote the song with his Traveling Wilburys bandmates, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty.
6. Crying (1961)
Australia was the country in which ‘Crying’ was most successful, as it topped the Australian charts. It peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 but was less successful in the UK, where it reached only number 25 on the charts. The song was the lead single from the 1961 album of the same name, and Roy Orbison and Joe Melson co-wrote it. In 1980, the song was covered by Don McLean, and his version went to number one in the UK.
5. Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream) (1962)
‘Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)’ was a non-album single released by Orbison in 1962, and it was written by Cindy Walker. The song was a top ten hit in the United States, Australia, the UK, Canada, and Norway. In 1971, the song was covered by Glen Campbell and became a top ten hit in the United States and Canada.
4. Running Scared (1961)
Culture Sonar lists ‘Running Scared’ as one of the best Roy Orbison songs. It was Orbison’s first number one hit in the United States, and it peaked at number nine in the UK Singles Chart. ‘Running Scared’ was the final track on the 1962 album ‘Crying.’
3. It’s Over (1964)
‘It’s Over’ topped the Adult Contemporary Chart in the United States and was also a chart-topping hit in the UK and Ireland. Roy Orbison co-wrote the song with Bill Dees, and it was the third single released from the 1964 album ‘More of Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits.’ The B-side for this single was ‘Indian Wedding.’
2. Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel) (1960)
‘Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)’ was Roy Orbison’s first number one hit in the UK. It did not achieve quite the same success in the United States, as it peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Orbison co-wrote the song with Joe Melson, and it was the first time the pair collaborated. They reportedly wrote the song in Orbison’s car while he was parked outside his tiny apartment, which he lived in with his first wife and oldest son while he was a struggling musician.
1. Oh, Pretty Woman (1964)
According to Classic Rock History, the best Roy Orbison song is ‘Oh, Pretty Woman,’ which was released in 1964 and was the first single from the album ‘Orbisongs.’ It was Orbison’s most commercially successful single, as it topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was also a chart-topping hit in the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, Canada, Belgium, and Australia.