He truly was one of a kind - Roy Orbison. This past weekend I was able to pick-up a very rare cd of the last performance of Roy Orbison.
It was the last show he did on December 4, 1988, twenty-six years ago. He did his last show at a theater in Akron, Ohio, and two days later he died here in Nashville, Tennessee, of a heart attack. Driving this morning to my get-up-early morning coffee place, I was playing that last performance and thinking about Orbison. He was a man who knew sadness in his life; his wife was killed in a motorcycle accident and the loss of his two children in a house fire. His music still lives on today even with folks who are not from that time. Anyone who hears the opening licks to “Pretty Woman” knows what’s coming next.
Orbison was born in 1936 in Texas. He was magic for those of us who grew up in the late 50s’. He was so different than most other rock-n’-rollers of that time. I remember the first time I saw Orbison, about 1959-60. He walked on stage, and I thought, “There’s nothin’ cool about this guy.” True, he was not cool in the manner of Elvis or Rick Nelson. He dressed in black most of the time he was on stage and he wore thick, and I mean thick, prescription sunglasses all the time. Yet he was cool because of his music. Some folks sing songs, and a few others “deliver” a song. I’ve stood close to the stage and seen him do songs like, “Crying,” or “Runnin’ Scared.” It was as if he had sent me a personal letter C.O.D about sadness. No one in my opinion could do the Christmas classic, “Pretty Paper,” like him. Okay, Willie isn’t bad, but no one could sing those lyrics like Orbison. “Should you stop, better not, much too busy. And in the midst of this he cries.” Wow. And then there’s this song:
“Only the Lonely”
Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight
Only the lonely know that this feeling ain’t right
There goes my baby, there goes my heart
They’re gone forever, so far apart
But only the lonely know why I cry, only the lonely
Only the lonely know the heartache I’ve been through
Only the lonely know I cry and cry for you
Maybe tomorrow a new romance, no more sorrow
But that’s the chance you gotta take
If your heart breaks….only the lonely
(You can add in your dum-dum-dum-dumdy, do-wah)
I said he spoke the emotions of teenagers of the late 50s’, but really he addressed the thoughts and emotions and spoke to all generations. I know personally he has spoken to my times in the 50s’, but even twenty-six years after his passing, his music still speaks to me.
January 13, 2014