Roy Orbison was one of the true pioneers of rock and roll and one of the greatest singers to ever record rock, pop or country music. In celebration of his legacy, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum created an exhibit highlighting different aspects of his career and personal life. Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
“Roy Orbison secured his place in modern music history with a unique blend of rock, country and pop music that defies easy description,” said Howard Kramer, director of curatorial affairs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. “His one-of-a-kind voice and ethereal songs set him apart from all of his contemporaries and made for a diverse set of followers.” Orbison influenced a broad range of contemporaries, like Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers; rock superstars like Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon; as well as more current performers such as k.d. lang and Chris Isaak.
The exhibit included handwritten lyrics and set lists, production notes, handbills, clothing, rare records and more. Highlights included:
Roy Orbison possessed one of the great rock and roll voices: a forceful, operatic bel canto tenor capable of dynamic crescendos. He sang heartbroken ballads and bluesy rockers alike, running up a formidable hit streak in the early Sixties. From the release of “Only the Lonely” in 1960 to “Oh! Pretty Woman,” a span of four years, Orbison cracked the Top 10 nine times. Orbison’s most memorable performances were lovelorn melodramas, such as “Crying” and “It’s Over,” in which he emoted in a brooding, tremulous voice. The melancholy in his songs resonated with listeners of all ages, but especially heartsick teenagers who knew how it felt to lose in love.
During his remarkable career, Roy Orbison received multiple Grammy awards, including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award. He is also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1990, two years after his death, Roy received a Grammy for best male vocalist for his performance of “Oh! Pretty Woman” from Black & White Night. The love and respect for the writer and singer Roy Orbison didn’t end the day he died in December 1988, as a new generation of fans discover his artistry.