Essential Listening #3: Oh, Pretty Woman

“Oh, Pretty Woman” (often known simply as “Pretty Woman”) is a classic rock and roll song by Roy Orbison. Here is a detailed look at its history, composition, impact, and legacy:

Background and Release

  1. Artist: Roy Orbison
  2. Release Date: August 1964
  3. Label: Monument Records
  4. Genre: Rock and roll, pop

Composition

  • Writers: Roy Orbison and Bill Dees
  • Instrumentation: The song features a memorable guitar riff, powerful vocals by Orbison, and a blend of rock and pop elements.
  • Structure: “Oh, Pretty Woman” is structured with a catchy intro riff, verses, a memorable chorus, and a distinctive bridge. The song’s chord progression and melody contribute to its lasting appeal.

Recording

  • Studio: Recorded at Monument Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Producers: Fred Foster
  • Sound: The production features Orbison’s rich vocal range, prominent guitars, and rhythmic backing. The song is known for its distinctive opening riff and Orbison’s emotive delivery.

Lyrics

The lyrics of “Oh, Pretty Woman” tell the story of a man who is captivated by a beautiful woman he sees walking down the street. He wonders if she might be as lonely as he is and if she might notice him.

Opening Lines:

Pretty woman, walking down the street
Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet

Chart Performance

  • Billboard Hot 100: The song reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on September 26, 1964, and stayed there for three weeks.
  • International Success: It also topped charts in several other countries, including the UK and Canada.

Influence and Legacy

  • Impact: “Oh, Pretty Woman” is one of Roy Orbison’s most famous songs and a quintessential rock and roll track. It has influenced numerous artists and has been widely covered.
  • Cover Versions: Many artists have covered the song, including Van Halen, Al Green, and Bruce Springsteen, each bringing their own style to the track.
  • Cultural References: The song has been featured in various movies, TV shows, and commercials. It gained renewed popularity with its prominent use in the 1990 film “Pretty Woman,” starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.

Recognition and Honors

  • Grammy Hall of Fame: “Oh, Pretty Woman” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, acknowledging its lasting impact on popular music.
  • Rolling Stone List: The song has appeared on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” highlighting its enduring significance.

Notable Appearances

  • Movies and TV: Beyond its central role in the film “Pretty Woman,” the song has been used in various other media to evoke feelings of romance and nostalgia.
  • Live Performances: Roy Orbison performed “Oh, Pretty Woman” live on numerous occasions, and it remains a staple in tribute performances and classic rock concerts.

Legacy

“Oh, Pretty Woman” remains a beloved song in the rock and roll canon. Its catchy riff, memorable lyrics, and Orbison’s powerful vocals ensure its place as a timeless classic. The song’s popularity endures across generations, continuing to be a significant influence in both music and pop culture.

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