Today would have been Roy Orbison’s 77th birthday.
The first time I’d ever heard of him was in 1987, when The Traveling Wilburys (Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Tom Petty) released “Handle with Care.” I had heard Van Halen’s version of his classic “Pretty Woman,” but somehow failed to make the connection between Orbison’s original and the 1980s cover.
No matter. This song was so unlike anything on late-1980s radio that I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of Roy Orbison. That fragile, haunting voice—where’s it coming from? His mouth barely moves, yet all this world-weary heartbreak still pours forth.
But the next year, he died of a heart attack at 52, and his record company released Mystery Girl posthumously. My favorite from that album, “You Got It,” was a simultaneous #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and Hot Country Songs charts. It was also his first hit in nearly 25 years.
Rest in peace, Roy, and thank you.