Our top 10 Roy Orbison songs lits looks at one of the most celebrated songwriters and singers in classic rock history. Listing only 10 Roy Orbison songs is challenging because the man composed and recorded so much brilliant material. Roy Orbison was both a songwriter and song interpreter. Some of his biggest hits were composed by himself while many other songs he performed were written by others. Either way, his signature sound was defined by that commencing divine voice that penetrated the lives of so many.
Roy Orbison released his first vinyl single in 1956. The song was entitled “Trying To Get To You.” Roy Orbison was only twenty years old at the time. That same year, Roy Orbison signed with Sun Records and enjoyed his first charting single entitled “Ooby Dooby.” The song hit number fifty nine on the Billboard Hot 100. The musical career of Roy Orbison had been launched. Roy Orbison continued to release singles for Sun Records and even had a stint with RCA Records towards the end of the decade. In 1960, Roy Orbison signed a record deal with Monument Records and released his first album entitled Sings Lonely and Blue. The album would feature three big hit singles including one of the biggest in his career titled “Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel).”
Roy Orbison followed up his debut album one year later, in 1961, with the album entitled Crying. The album would turn Roy Orbison into a household name as it yielded two massive hit singles. The first single release titled “Running Scared,” became Roy Orbison’s first number one single of his career in the United States. The follow-up single, entitled “Crying,” did almost just as well, reaching the number two position on the Billboard Hot 100.
From 1960 to 1966, Roy Orbison enjoyed multiple hit singles and huge hit albums, cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats. Roy Orbison would continue to release albums throughout the 70s and early 1980s but never achieve the success he had from 1960 to 1966. However, in 1988, Roy Orbison became a founding member of one of the greatest supergroups of all time including Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Tom Petty, called The Traveling Wilburys. The group had multiple hit singles, and a new generation of fans discovered Roy Orbison’s music.
During his time as a Wilbury, Roy Orbison recorded his last solo album with bandmate Jeff Lynne producing. Sadly, Roy Orbison would pass away at the young age of 52 before the album was released. It was an excellent record that stands as one of the strongest albums Roy Orbison ever released.
While Roy Orbison’s career was filled with many hit singles and astonishing performances, his legacy was not just defined by his commercial success. So many artists’ careers were inspired by the craftsmanship and artistry of Roy Orbison. Bruce Springsteen often referred to Roy Orbison as one of his biggest influences. Tom Waits, Tom Petty, and many others made similar remarks about Roy Orbison throughout their careers.
Our Top 10 Roy Orbison songs list attempts to cover various time periods of Roy Orbison’s career without missing any of his massive hits. It was not an easy feat to accomplish. We hope this Roy Orbison songs list serves as a starting point to discover the wonderful career of one of classic rock history’s true legends.
# 10 – You Got It
We open up this top 10 Roy Orbison songs list with this big hit from the first solo album he ever released. The song “You Got It” was written by Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty making it sound very much like a Traveling Wilburys song. One can hear Jeff Lynne’s production techniques in this great song. The album was completed and released in 1988. The song was a top 10 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Wonderfully, the song hit number one on the US Adult Contemporary.
# 9 – Ooby Dooby
Continuing with our list of top 10 Roy Orbison songs, we turn back the clock all the way to 1956. The song “Ooby Dooby,” would become the first single Roy Orbison ever released that charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
# 8 – She’s A Mystery To Me
Before we begin featuring many of Roy Orbison’s mega 1960s hit singles that we can’t ignore, we turn one more time to his final album entitled Mystery Girl. Side two of the record opened up with the sensational song “She’s a Mystery to Me.”U2’s Bono and The Edge wrote the song. Bono performed the song with Roy Orbison along with Benmont Tench, Howie Epstein, and Jim Keltner. It’s simply the most stunning song Roy Orbison has recorded since the 1960s period.
# 7 – Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)
We now enter Roy Orbison’s glory years of the 1960s with the iconic song “Dream Baby.” The song was released in 1962. It was released as a stand-alone single and eventually made it to Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits LP. The song proved to be very successful for Roy Orbison, reaching all the way to number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
# 6 – Blue Bayou
The great Roy Orbison song “Blue Bayou” was released in 1963. Roy Orbison and Joe Melson wrote the song. The song became a top 40 hit for Roy Orbison, peaking at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1977, Linda Ronstadt recorded a dynamic cover of the song, becoming a top 10 hit for Linda Ronstadt.
# 5 – In Dreams
The Roy Orbison song “In Dreams” also served as the title track to his 1963 album In Dreams. The record also featured the previous song on this list, “Blue Bayou.”. The song In Dreams was the first single released from the album. The song became another top 10 hit for Roy Orbison, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
# 4 – Running Scared
Roy Orbison had two number one singles during his Hall of Fame career. “Running Scared” was the first of the two. The song “Running Scared” was released in 1961. It was issued on Roy Orbison’s second solo album entitled Crying. The song “Running Scared” was written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melton.
# 3 – Crying
And speaking of the album Crying. This classic Roy Orbison song was released on the album of the same name in 1961. It was issued as the second single from the record and just barely missed hitting number one, peaking at number two. However, Mr. American Pie Don McLean would have a number-one hit in the UK with his cover of the song almost twenty years later in 1980.
# 2 – Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)
Now, come on, you know this one. This beautiful song, “Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel),” was released in 1960. It was recorded for Roy Orbison’s first album, Sings Lonely and Blue. The song missed hitting number one as it stalled at the number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960.
# 1 – Oh, Pretty Woman
Was there any doubt that this classic song would take the crowning spot on our top 10 Roy Orbison songs list. “Oh, Pretty Woman” would become Roy Orbison’s second number one hit and the biggest and most popular song of his career. Van Halen would record a raucous version of the song that would reach number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Charts in 1982. And, of course, we all remember the movie starring Julia Roberts that used the song’s title.
Professional Sources, research, experience, and citations
Charting information used in the analysis and research of the commercial success of these songs comes from Billboard Magazine Charts
Other sources for important factual information include the band’s website and other academic sources.
Further analysis and original thoughts are provided by the writer Brian Kachejian’s experience as a professional musician and music collector for over 50 years and his experience as a New York State certified music and history educator and professional music journalist with the New York Press.