Remembering Roy Orbison

The tragic life and death of the ‘Caruso of Rock’

Remembering Roy Orbison


Died on December 6, 1988, at the age of 52

His music was called operatic. Critics hailed him as the “Casuso of Rock” after famed opera singer Enrico Caruso.

“While most male rock-and-roll singers in the 1950s and 1960s projected gyrating masculinity, many of Orbison’s songs conveyed vulnerability, which he performed standing still, wearing black clothes to match his black hair and dark sunglasses.”


Orbison was very shy and suffered from severe stage fright. He wore his trademark sunglasses — which led some people to assume he was blind — as a way to hide himself.

His black clothes and song lyrics “emphasised the image of mystery and introversion. His dark and brooding persona, combined with his tremulous voice in lovelorn ballads marketed to teenagers made Orbison a star in the early 1960s.”

Perhaps he’s best known for the song ‘Pretty Woman,’ the theme song of the hit movie by the same name starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.


Orbison was a founding member of the American-British “supergroup” known as  the Traveling Wilburys, with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne.


Orbison’s life was filled with tragedy, including the sudden accidental death of his wife Claudette. During a series of concerts in Britain, his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee, burned down, killing his two sons, 11-year old Roy and Tony, 6.

In what would turn out to be the last three months of his life, he gave Rolling Stone magazine extensive access to his daily activities. He had plans to write an autobiography and wanted Martin Sheen to play him in a biopic.


Orbison confided in Johnny Cash that he was having chest pains. He went to Europe and performed to standing ovations. He gave several interviews a day in a hectic schedule.

Back in America, he performed at the Front Row Theater in Highland Heights, Ohio. Exhausted, he returned to his home in Hendersonville to rest for several days before flying again to London to film two more videos for the Traveling Wilburys.

On December 6, 1988, he ate dinner at his mother’s home in Hendersonville. Later that day he died of a heart attack at the age of 52.

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2 thoughts on “The tragic life and death of the ‘Caruso of Rock’

  1. Hey! Mich, good work, brought back to me good memories! These artists worked together to create wonderful music that will last as long as humanity exists on this planet! Thanks for the Memory trip, Brother!

  2. Thanks, brother. Meanwhile, you keep up your good work of spreading the word to save this planet and its homeless and hungry.