Elvis Presley once called legend Roy Orbison (1936-1988) "the greatest singer in the world." Born on this day in the small town of Vernon, Texas, Orbison grew up poor, picked up the guitar at age six, and formed his first rockabilly band, the Wink Westerners, at 13.
Nicknamed "the big O," Orbison was discovered by Sun Record's founder Sam Phillips alongside Presley, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. He scored his first hit, the catchy rockabilly tune Ooby Dooby, in 1956 at the age of 20.
"Without the word dream, or the concept dream, and without the word blue and the emotions, I would have been really limited in the things I've written and performed," Orbison once said.
He toured with the Beatles in 1962 and scored over 15 major hits in the first half of the 1960s, including Only the Lonely, Crying, and Oh, Pretty Woman, his signature song.
His extraordinary voice was distinctive, with the unmistakable vibrato and unparalleled range and depth. He sang with lilting passion and emotion. "I've always been in love with my voice," Orbison admitted.
David Lynch's acclaimed film Blue Velvet (1986) powerfully featured Orbison's song In Dreams and launched a resurgence in the musician's career.
In 1987, a "billion dollar band," featuring Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, T-Bone Burnett, Bonnie Raitt, and others performed together at L.A.'s Coconut Grove's televised Black & White Night, a tribute to Orbison.
That same year, Springsteen inducted Orbison into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and recalled how he always "wanted to sing like Roy Orbison. Now everybody knows that nobody sings like Roy Orbison.”
In 1988 with his career rejuvenated, Orbison teamed up with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty to form the Traveling Wilburys. Upon Orbison's death, U2's lead singer Bono said, "His great gift was to turn the pain and bad luck that he experienced into ground breaking songs."
More ROCK Quotations | Song: Oh, Pretty Woman
A living legend, "only in dreams, in beautiful dreams."