Oh Pretty Woman
Writer(s): Roy Orbison/Bill Dees (see lyrics here)
First Charted: August 29, 1964
Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 11 HR, 48 AC, 89 CW, 1 CL, 12 UK, 11 CN, 12 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.76 UK, 7.0 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 6.0 radio, 103.05 video, 293.43 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Orbison’s “most enduring recording” NRR grew out of a crack Bill Dees made to Roy’s wife, Claudette. She interrupted the pair while they were writing to ask her husband for some money to go to the store. Dees shot back that a “pretty woman never needs any money.” RS500 From that, Roy came up with the idea of a man watching a pretty woman walk by and wondering if she might be lonely like him.
The path from inception to release was, as Dees says, “the fastest thing I ever saw.” KL He says they wrote the song on a Friday, recorded it the next Friday, and by the following Friday it was released. KL The song was marked by “Orbison’s tiger-like growl and the repetitive guitar riff.” JA His singing is “uncharacteristically exuberant” TC on this “perfect country rock boogie sound.” TC Chet Atkins called it the “best commercial record I ever heard.” HL
The flirtatious nature of this “anthem for voyeurs” TC was amusingly ironic, depicting Orbison (or at least the song’s protagonist) “as a trolling stud.” MA The image was far better suited to singer David Lee Roth’s machismo when his hard-rock band, Van Halen, took their 1982 cover of the song to #1 on the album rock chart and #12 on the pop charts. Six years later, Orbison died of a heart attack, but as a testament to the song’s timeliness, a version recorded live in September 1987 hit the adult contemporary and country charts in 1989 – twenty five years after the original.
Rap group 2 Live Crew recorded a parody under the title “Pretty Woman” and sampled the bassline from the original. WK Orbison’s publisher sued under the claim that the fair use doctrine did not allow for copyrighted material to be reused for profit. WK In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in what is now considered a seminal fair use decision, WK that parody qualified as fair use.
First posted 8/29/2011; updated 11/12/2022.