Roy Orbison: In Dreams on WXXI-TV

Roy Orbison: In Dreams on WXXI-TV

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 7:00pm

Photo Caption: Roy Orbison.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of ©Tony

This documentary outlines the story of one of pop’s most enigmatic pioneers.

The inspiring life and times — and music — of first-generation Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Roy Orbison are the heart of Roy Orbison: In Dreams airing Sunday, July 10 at 7 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).

For Orbison, whose rock ’n’ roll career spanned the 1950s through the 80s, ambition and stardom always took a back seat to the purity and essence of his art. Even without formal training, he was a brilliant songwriter whose simplest tunes, “Only the Lonely,” “Crying,” “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Blue Bayou” and “You Got It” — all heard in Roy Orbison: In Dreams — defied conventional rules of songwriting and structure.

Roy Kelton Orbison was born April 23, 1936, in West Texas. His father gave him a guitar for his sixth birthday (though young Roy’s first choice was a harmonica), and by age 10, he was performing at school assemblies. He led his first band at 15, playing on radio stations in West Texas. After he recorded his first single, “Ooby Dooby,” he left home two weeks before high school final exams to go on the road and never went back.

Orbison was an artist whose poignant use of drama and emotion in his songwriting was radical in the early 1960s, a point underscored by Bono, an ardent admirer. Jeff Lynne and Robert Plant testify to the importance to them of Orbison’s breakthrough hit, the million-seller “Only the Lonely,” in 1960, when both Britons were teenagers. Orbison’s next hit, “Crying,” was based on a real incident, but the bigger impact of the song — acknowledging a man’s tears — cannot be overstated in the world of 1961.

A solid headliner by 1962, Orbison traveled to England in 1963 for a European tour with the Beatles. Photographs of him in his dark glasses were published worldwide, leading to his adoption of the shades as his trademark. Contrary to rumor, he didn’t have weak or sensitive eyes.

Throughout the 1970s, Orbison continued to write and perform, though out of the U.S. limelight. His “Blue Bayou” was a Top 5 single for Linda Ronstadt in 1977. In the next decade, director David Lynch used “In Dreams” in his 1986 film, Blue Velvet, returning Orbison to prominence. In January 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Roy Orbison: In Dreams includes footage of Bruce Springsteen’s induction speech at that event, which was the prelude to September’s “A Black and White Night” all-star tribute concert — recorded in black and white and presented on PBS as Roy Orbison & Friends: A Black and White Night – whose song-scenes are interspersed throughout in dreams

In 1988, Orbison became part of the Traveling Wilburys — masterminded by Jeff Lynne of ELO — with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Tom Petty, perhaps the happiest musical association Orbison had ever experienced.

Orbison died on December 6, 1988, at age 52. In 1989, he became the first singer since Elvis Presley to have two Top 5 albums in the charts simultaneously. Roy Orbison: In Dreams allows a wider audience than ever to look, listen, and learn what the legend of Roy Orbison is all about.