Thursday, July 16, 2009


Bruce Springsteen once said, "I wanted a record with words like Bob Dylan, that sounded like Phil Spector but most of all, I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison. Now everyone knows that no one sings like Roy Orbison."

Roy Orbison received much praise during his career but had a difficult time developing an image for himself and never felt comfortable on camera. With no publicist in the early 60's, no photos in fan magazines and no pictures on his single sleeves, he was labeled the "anonymous celebrity". After accidentally leaving his thick eyeglasses on an airplane, he was forced to wear his Ray Ban sunglasses on stage. Orbison was shy and suffered from stagefright and the sunglasses helped him hide from the attention. His black wardrobe coupled with the lonely songs created an image of mystery and isolation. He said of his style, "I wasn't trying to be weird, you know? I didn't have a manager who told me to dress or how to present myself or anything. But the image developed of a man of mystery and a quiet man in black somewhat of a recluse, although I never was, really."

On stage, Orbison rarely moved, a stark contrast to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. He said his songs didn't have instrumental sections so he could dance around on stage. k.d. lang compared him to a tree, with passive but solid beauty. He once said, "I'm not a super personality on stage or off. I mean, you could put workers like Chubby Checker or Bobby Rydell in second-rate shows and they'd still shine through, but not me. I'd have to be prepared. People come to hear my music, my songs. That's what I have to give them."

Roy Orbison is considered a pioneer of rock & roll but his style, voice and manner were completely different than the norm. And that's exactly what made him so unique, so special. In a world where so many tried to be like Elvis, Roy Orbison was just being himself.

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