Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician known for his impassioned singing style, complex song structures, and dark, emotional ballads. His music was described by critics as operatic, earning him the nicknames “The Caruso of Rock” and “The Big O.” Many of Orbison’s songs conveyed vulnerability at a time when most male rock-and-roll performers chose to project defiant masculinity. He performed while standing motionless and wearing black clothes to match his dyed black hair and dark sunglasses, which he wore to counter his shyness and stage fright.
Born in Texas, Orbison began singing in a rockabilly and country-and-western band as a teenager. He was signed by Sam Phillips of Sun Records in 1956, but enjoyed his greatest success with Monument Records. From 1960 to 1966, 22 of Orbison’s singles reached the Billboard Top 40. He wrote or co-wrote almost all of his own Top 10 hits, including “Only the Lonely” (1960), “Running Scared” (1961), “Crying” (1961), “In Dreams” (1963), and “Oh, Pretty Woman” (1964).
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