Roy Orbison - An Interview With Barbara Orbison

Posted on: 06 November 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Roy Orbison's widow talks to 50connect about his life and legacy.

Roy Orbison is an enduring rock and roll icon. He continued creating new material right up until his death aged only 52 in 1988.

His widow Barbara explains that he wanted to keep on having hits.

"When Roy started music there was no map to rock and roll. He had this dream to give rock and roll a gift and that was to be cool at 50 years old, and to have a song at number one. It was very important for him to be 50 years old and have songs in the top ten, and he did."

His later work included collaborating with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty as the Traveling Wilburys.

"They had never recorded before. And Mystery Girl was brand new. So when he died Roy had two albums in the top five. Isn't that amazing?"

Roy loved life and was young at heart.

"When you're an artist you're eternally young. He loved to laugh. When you look at a photo of him he doesn't even have a wrinkle. When you listen to the Traveling Wilburys it sounds like 13 year old boys in the studio."

Barbara OrbisonSongs such as You Got It show a happy spirit. Yet Roy's life was marked by several tragedies. His first wife died in a motorcycle accident in 1966, and a house fire in 1968 killed two of his three sons.

"Roy said, yes there is sadness in life, but you learn to rely on your friends. I’m sure that suffering makes you stronger and gives you a chance to accept the love that people offer you."

He met Barbara in 1968 and married her in 1969, when she was 18.

"I just didn't know any better! I was very young and in love - it was a great time."

They had two sons, and Roy spent some time away from music to raise his family.

"He was living life, with a young family - getting up with the kids and going shopping with the wife. They weren't lost years, they were great years. The seventies were the only years I had."

Now Roy's lifetime of music is available as a box-set, The Soul of Rock and Roll. With four CDs and 107 songs, the box-set spans Roy's entire career.

"Roy was such a great artist because when you look at his box-set, you don't just look at Roy, you look at the history of rock and roll. He just happened to be around when rock and roll was created - he was one of the forefathers or architects."

The Beatles and Roy Orbison, 1965Roy is remembered for his distinctive rock and roll look as well as his music. Yet he did not create this by design.

"He had to wear glasses. When he toured with the Beatles in 1963 he forgot his regular glasses and so he ended up having to wear sunglasses, but instead of hiding them he turned them into his trademark. It was an accident but then he made that accident work for him. Roy was so cool."

Many modern artists have been inspired by the Big O, from Bruce Springsteen and Robert Plant to Franz Ferdinand and Duffy.

"Isn't that incredible? He probably would have said, mercy! He would have loved it. It's great to be remembered and loved and never forgotten."

Barbara is also trying to immortalise Roy in postage stamp form.

"On Roy's website we have a page where everybody from Bono to Bill Clinton has signed to give Roy a stamp. We have collected lots of signatures and gone to Washington. We have been doing it for two years and hopefully we will get a stamp next year for Roy."

Although the stamp would be American, UK fans can sign the petition too and maybe order one later.

This month and next, you can enjoy a four week documentary on BBC radio, and in December a BBC documentary of Roy's life hits our screens.

By Cherry Butler

Web Links

The official Roy Orbison website:

You can purchase The Soul of Rock and Roll from all good record stores or online from Amazon for £35.98.

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