100 Greatest Singers

13

Roy Orbison

Redfern/Redferns

Born April 23rd, 1936 (died December 6th, 1988)
Key Tracks "Oh, Pretty Woman," "You Got It," "Only the Lonely"
Influenced Bruce Springsteen, Chris Isaak, k.d. lang

Tom Petty called him "probably the greatest singer in the world." Another of his fellow Traveling Wilburys, Bob Dylan, said he had "the voice of a professional criminal." Roy Orbison shared rockabilly roots with Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley — he recorded the bopping "Ooby Dooby" at Sun Records in 1956 — before his soaring, symphonic vocals brought a new level of majesty and mystery to rock in the early Sixties. "Songs like 'Leah' and 'In Dreams' start out challenging, then just climb and climb into the stratosphere," says protégé Chris Isaak. Dion, who toured with Orbison, says that he actually sang very softly: "I'd be two feet away, and when he hit those high notes, it was quiet and heartfelt. But the emotion would go through you like a power drill."

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