YouTube MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) - Bill Dees emerged from his days as an…
- Posted on Apr 22nd 2011 4:00PM by James Sullivan
"He'd say, 'They need one man to be sad and lonely, and they gave me the crown,'" says the singer's widow, Barbara Orbison. Like his peers, such as Bob Dylan and Keith Richards (both of whom were in awe of the farsighted Texan in the thick glasses), Orbison knew he had a role to play.
Not that he was fond of it. He had his sons, his dogs, his classic cars. "I have the greatest life," Barbara recalls her husband saying.
After years of rehashed greatest hits collections, Mrs. Orbison, with help from Roy Jr., has just overseen the release of 'The Monument Singles Collection.' The two-disc, one-DVD package restores to the original mono mixes all of the Big O's lush, astonishing songs from his creative peak in the early 1960s -- 'Crying,' 'It's Over,' 'Only the Lonely' -- and their B-sides.
"I told them, I can't do another 'Greatest Hits,'" she says. "I'm here to do one thing -- to pass on the history of this incredible man and artist called Roy Orbison."
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images
Though he was known for wearing dark glasses, Roy loved movie theaters. On tour, he often rented cinemas after hours so he and his crew could watch first-run films after a gig.
"In fact, his close friends would have told you he probably should have been a director," says Barbara.
His eye for storytelling spilled over into his songwriting. "That's what he did -- he told a story in song," says his widow. Whether 'Running Scared' or 'Oh, Pretty Woman,' his best songs were artful vignettes.
Michael Tran, FilmMagic
After a brief period with Sun Records, Sam Phillips's rockabilly label, in the 1950s, Orbison almost singlehandedly redeemed the early 1960s from the era's treacly pop hits with his elegant, almost operatic productions. He headlined tours with the bands that would soon dominate the rock 'n' roll resurgence, from the Beach Boys to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Bruce Springsteen, an unabashed fan, inducted Orbison into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. When the Traveling Wilburys formed on a lark, the members of the supergroup -- Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, ELO's Jeff Lynne -- all bowed to the master singer. (In 'Chronicles: Volume One,' Dylan wrote that his friend "transcended all the genres ... He sounded like he was singing from an Olympian mountaintop.") And when Orbison recorded his extraordinary comeback album, 'Mystery Girl,' Bono and the Edge contributed a song, as did Elvis Costello.
"Roy transitioned well from the '50s into the '60s," says his widow. "In the '70s he was basically rebuilding a life. He didn't want to do anything except be somebody in love, with a little money and lots of fun. By the '80s, he was ready again."
When he recorded 'Mystery Girl,' which would be released two months after his death, he knew he had to deliver an album that stood up to the Monument singles. "He never had a throw-away hit," Barbara says. "He either had a hit, or he didn't."
If he were alive today, she says, her late husband would say he had yet to write his best song. Considering the songs he left behind, that'd be quite a statement.