Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison: The Soul of Rock and Roll


Some voices can make romantic failure sound like the height of spiritual ecstasy. Typically, they’re named Callas or Caruso and sing works by Puccini. Less typically, they’re myopic rockabillies who look to be straight from a Diane Arbus photo. But such is the legend of pop’s most beautiful loser, told on these four CDs packed with ’50s radio ads, noisy club recordings and ’80s all-star jams that follow Roy Orbison from a Texan teen singing “Ooby Dooby” to a pioneer of jaw-dropping rock balladry that set his eerie tenor into woozy orchestral dramas that seem to have presaged the entire corpus of David Lynch (whose Blue Velvet sequence using “In Dreams” started Orbison’s late-’80s resurgence). He found his biggest hit in the gently salacious “Oh, Pretty Woman,” but his essence breathes in ineffable voices like Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright and Thom Yorke—even if a liner-note blurb from Motörhead madman Lemmy proves just how wide his influence was.


© 2008 by Chris Norris