Only the Lonely

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This article is about the Roy Orbison song. For other uses, see Only the Lonely (disambiguation).
"Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)"
Single by Roy Orbison
from the album Lonely and Blue
B-side "Here Comes That Song Again"
Released May 1960
Genre Rockabilly
Length 2:24
Label Monument Records 45-421
Writer(s) Roy Orbison, Joe Melson
Roy Orbison singles chronology
"Up Town"
"Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)"
"Blue Angel"

"Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)" is a 1960 song written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson.[1] Produced by Fred Foster for Monument Records it became the first major hit for Orbison. As an operatic rock ballad, it was a sound unheard of at the time except It's Now or Never by Elvis Presley, described by the New York Times as expressing "a clenched, driven urgency".[1] It is seen as a seminal event in the evolution of Rock and Roll. Released as a 45rpm single by Monument Records in May 1960, "Only the Lonely" went to No. 2 on the United States Billboard pop music charts on 25 July 1960 (blocked by Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry") & No. 14 on the Billboard R&B charts.[2] "Only the Lonely" reached Number One in the United Kingdom, a position it achieved on 20 October 1960, staying there for two weeks (out of a total of 24 weeks spent on the UK singles chart from 28 July 1960).[3] the personnel who were featured on the original recording included Orbison's session regulars Buddy Harman on drums, Floyd Cramer on piano and Bob Moore on bass with Hank Garland and Harold Bradley on guitar.

In 1999, "Only the Lonely" was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 232 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Cover versions[edit]

The song also appears on Orbison's 1962 album, Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits, and his 1989 posthumous album A Black & White Night Live, from the 1988 HBO television special.

In 1969, country singer Sonny James recorded the song and had a number-one hit on the Billboard country music charts.[4]

Mariachi El Bronx released a mariachi version of the song in 2011.[5]

The song has also been covered by Chris Isaak.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Orbison's version of his song has been used in motion pictures, including The Love Letter (1999) and Only the Lonely (1991).[6]
  • Only the Lonely is the title of a book about Roy Orbison by Alan Clayson, published 1989, St. Martin's Press, New York City.
  • Only the Lonely – The Roy Orbison Story is a stage musical that toured Europe.
  • The song is referenced to extensively in the satirical play Red, White and Tuna. It is looped through every jukebox over most of Act II whenever Arles, a radio DJ, barricades himself inside of the local radio station after he and his fianceé, Bertha, fight and call off their wedding.
  • Bruce Springsteen references the song in his 1975 song "Thunder Road", but Orbison's influence ran deeper than just a passing mention. When inducting Orbison into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Springsteen said, "In '75, when I went into the studio to make Born to Run, I wanted to make a record with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector, but most of all I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison." Springsteen originally intended to begin his album with an alarm clock followed by Orbison's song playing over the radio.[7]
  • The song is traditionally played at the home games of Scottish football club Airdrieonians, and was the title of the club's unofficial fanzine in the 1980s and 1990s.


  1. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (January 1, 1989). "POP VIEW; The Man With the Blue Velvet Voice". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 443. 
  3. ^ "Orbison's widow sues film makers". BBC News. January 1, 2002. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 172. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Rohter, Larry (July 8, 1991). "In Movies, a Formula Is Born: Hitching One's Star to a Song". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  7. ^ Barker, Derek (2009). Liner notes to Bruce Springsteen's Jukebox: The Songs that Inspired the Man [CD]. Chrome Dreams.


External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Tell Laura I Love Her" by Ricky Valance
UK number-one single (Roy Orbison version)
October 20, 1960 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"It's Now or Never" by Elvis Presley
Preceded by
"To Make Love Sweeter For You"
by Jerry Lee Lewis
Billboard Hot Country Singles number-one single
(Sonny James version)

March 8-March 22, 1969
Succeeded by
"Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass"
by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos
Preceded by
"The Name of the Game Was Love"
by Hank Snow
RPM Country Tracks number-one single
(Sonny James version)

April 28, 1969