April 23, 1936

On this day in 1936, Roy Kelton Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas, as the middle son to Orbie Lee, an oil well driller, and Nadine Shultz, a nurse.

A singer-songwriter, Orbison is known for his dark, emotional ballads, distinguishing dominant voice, and intricate compositions. Orbison’s father gave him his first guitar at age six, and by age seven, he didn’t much care for anything other than music. He grew up in Texas, and began singing in a country and western band in high school, his first record label being with Sun Records.

Between 1960 and 1964, he had 22 songs sitting on the Billboard Top Forty, including ‘Crying’, ‘Only The Lonely’ and ‘Oh, Pretty Women’, while signed to Monument Records. His career declined throughout the 1970s, but by the 1980s, a cover of his song ‘In Dreams’ appeared in David Lynch’s cult classic film, Blue Velvet. This rekindled his career, and by 1988, he had joined Tom Petty, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne in their band, The Travelling Wilburys.

Sadly, Orbison’s life had been full of tragedies. His first wife died in an accident; that tragic death was followed by two of his sons, on separate dates.

He died of a heart attack that same year on December 6, 1988, at his mother’s home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

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