THE SOUL OF ROCK AND ROLL PART 3
Roy believed God, music, time and love could cure all things. Something had happened to give Roy the hope of love. Just when He needed it most, He met the girl who would become his wife and constant companion. Roy married Barbara Annemarie Wellhoener Jakobs on May 24, 1969.
When Roy would say ”Barbara saved my life” in interviews, everyone knew He meant it literally. In Barbra, He had found what He was looking for, the once in a lifetime soulmate love that only happens in dreams.
In his live shows, Orbison always had a few extra rockers to add to his ”ballad heavy” string of hits. ”Land Of 1000 Dances” from a 1972 show in Australia is a good example, recorded with his backing band of the time, The Art Movement.
Even during his ”Lost Years,” Orbison was still quite active. Winning a Grammy Award for his duet with Emmylou Harris, ”That Lovin’ You Feelin’ Again.” Touring with the Eagles in 1978. Doing benefits like Farm Aid, and appearing on The Dukes Of Hazzard with Daisy Duke.
INTO THE 1980’s
Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison got together one last time. The album was called Homecoming, and what a glorious reunion it was. Carl Perkins gave the best vocal performances of his career. Johnny wrote his best lyrics. Jerry Lee was still wild, and Roy Orbison was still emotional. The songs somehow sound better today than the day they were released in 1985. Roy’s solo song, ”Coming Home”, contains a spiritual quality.
A picture was taken at Sun of Carl, Johnny, Jerry Lee and Elvis and dubbed ”The Million-Dollar-Quartet”. It would have been ”The Million-Dollar-Quintet”, except that Roy was in Texas at the time. The name ”The Million-Dollar-Quartet” was considered for the reunion band, but out of respect for Elvis, they called themselves ”Class of ’55”. Along with the death of Elvis Presley, ”Class of ’55” was the end of the beginning of Rock and Roll. The songs conjure up these friends as a Big Train from Memphis, with Elvis as the engine in the front, Carl in the next boxcar, Johnny the next, Roy the next, all the cool cats from Sun next, and Jerry Lee as the caboose to tear the whole thing down. The passage of time shows just how special that train would prove to be.
In the movie Blue Velvet director David Lynch pointed out the darkness inherent in any Roy Orbison song. In this case, the beautiful song ”In Dreams” would be re-imagined as a nightmare. Lynch also made a Spanish version of ”Crying” called ”Llorando” the set piece for his movie Mulholland Drive.
There never was a band that had more fun than the Travelling Wilbury’s. Like a musical version of Monty Python, Nelson Wilbury, Otis Wilbury, Lefty Wilbury, Lucky Wilbury and Charley T. Junior humbly made music history, notably by actually making great music.
George Harrison had befriended Roy when The Beatles were the supporting act for the English leg of Orbison’s 1963 world tour. That friendship came back full-circle when Tom Petty (who was working with Orbison various projects – The Heartbreakers are all over the album Mystery Girl, Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra (Roy’s trusted friend and producer) and Bob Dylan (the best lyricist ever, among other things) formed the dream band.
George Harrison was only in two bands for all He achieved in his mighty career. George is still a Beatle, and He is still a Wilbury. Thy Wilbury Done.
Roy’s spotlight song on the Traveling Wilburys album ”Not Alone Anymore”, is one of his best vocals. It soars like an Angel.
”You Got It”, is so catchy, it’s almost not fair to the listener. It’s like one big chorus. You can hear how big Roy’s love was by the conviction of his voice. The words of a man who promises the world and can deliver. It’s the true life serenade of Roy to Barbara Orbison.
When Roy and Bono of U2 worked together, Bono turned out a gem of a song. ”She’s A Mystery To Me” has a wonderful rhythm and many classic Orbison elements. It sounds like it could be from Orbison’s classic Monument period, yet is as modern as what it is-a U2 song with Roy Orbison singing.
Roy’s life in the 1980s on the beaches of California was his golden period. From his Pacific Ocean front porch, He could see the beauty of the sunset or hear the thunder over Kanan Dume. He always said the sky there has a special blue color. When He was on the road, a certain time of day always made him miss Barbara. He would look up at the sky and wish He was seeing the cloudless blue sky of California. Like a latter day ”Blue Bayou,” Roy captured the emotion of longing again with ”California Blue.”
Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night was captured on audio and black-and-white video. No color footage exists. The sounds are vivid enough without it.
Great Rock and Roll guitarist James Burton throws cascades of colorful notes across every song. Alex Acuna and the rest of Elvis’ TCB Band playing with Roy gives the show a ”Holy Elvis” quality. Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello Bonnie Raitt, k.d. lang and T Bone Burnett turned in heartfelt renditions with a unique chemistry. (Orbison worked frequently with super-talented T Bone Burnett, who was also the musical director for Black and White Night.)
Bruce Springsteen helped Roy many times, in many ways. In his early days, Bruce had opened the show for Orbison and would later write ”Roy Orbison singing for the lonely” in his song ”Thunder Road.” It was Bruce Springsteen who inducted Roy into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 with a riveting speech. Roy loved The Boss’s live shows and received a surprise when Bruce sang ”Happy Birthday” to him from the stage in Los Angeles.
Springsteen’s integrity was well known to Roy, and it was an association and friendship that made Roy very proud.
Thank you Bruce!
Right ’til the end, Roy always liked upbeat Rock and Roll. ”Heartbreak Radio” could be a song from his Sun days recorded in the year 2050. It’s the same old boogie-woogie in disguise.
Jeff Lynne’s talents graced ”I Drove All Night.” His deep understanding of music allowed him to match Roy’s voice in ways no one else was ever able. Roy could sing flawlessly over anything Jeff played, and Jeff could play perfectly behind anything Roy sang. They worked well together, and Jeff added yet another chapter of genius to Roy’s life.
Roy’s last great long-term songwriting collaboration was with fellow Texan Will Jennings. With Will, Roy created his most mature works. The point of view in these songs isn’t old-it’s ancient. ”Wild Hearts Run Out Of Time” was written for a movie about Marilyn Monroe, but the song is so personal, with Roy singing lines about being ”in the dying of the light” and ”in the sunshine of your mind,” that in retrospect it seems autobiographical. It would be a heart attack that claimed him too early in life.
”Life Fades Away” is a spooky song. In the opening lyrics, Roy sings, ”My time has come, the clouds are calling/December Wind has come my way. ”Produced by Rick Rubin, the song begs the question of what great songs the relationship might have yielded. With Orbison, Rubin began a new direction in his series of successess. Rick put the song on the soundtrack for the movie Less Than Zero. Seeing Roy and Slayer on the same album is the type of cool factor Rick is so good at. Working with Roy led Rick to Johnny Cash.
Roy Orbison was buried December 1988, in the most famous cemetery in the world. His pallbearers were the Traveling Wilburys. The sky was raining.
BUT HEROES DON’T DIE.
Roy Orbison stood alone at 5’11” inches and cast a long shadow over Rock and Roll.
He never lost a childlike fascination with music and a humility that He was given admiration and money for what He would have done anyway for free.
Music was what it was all about. The guitar was his best friend, and together they had a lot of fun.