|Born||10 January 1950
|Died||6 December 2011 (aged 61)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||pancreatic cancer|
Barbara Anne Marie Wellhöner Jakobs was born in Bielefeld, Germany on January 10, 1950. Aged 18 years old, Barbara met the 32-year-old Orbison when he asked friends to introduce him to her at a nightclub in Leeds, England, during Orbison's tour of Great Britain. A few weeks later, Orbison suffered a devastating tragedy when two of his three sons died in a house fire. They married on 25 March 1969, in Hendersonville, Tennessee. They divided their time between Nashville, Tennessee and Malibu, California, bringing up their two sons, Roy Kelton Orbison, Jr. (born 1970) and Alexander Lee Orbison (born 1974).
During the 1980s, she managed her husband's career and was the executive producer of his 1987 album, In Dreams: The Greatest Hits plus his highly acclaimed January 1988 televised music special, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night. Following her husband's death on 6 December 1988, she took charge of his business affairs and dedicated herself to promoting his music to ensuing generations. She worked with friend and fellow artist Jeff Lynne to put together the posthumous release of the King of Hearts album in 1992 (an album which was re-issued in 2007 by Sony BMG after they took charge of Virgin's catalog in 2005) as well as other record projects. She co-produced Only the Lonely: The Roy Orbison Story, a European stage musical.
In late 1993, the family home in Malibu was destroyed by brush fires. Although she maintained a residence on the West Coast, she returned to Nashville where she purchased a home as well as a commercial property to house her music publishing business. Her company, "Still Working Music" employs songwriters such as Tommy Lee James and Chase Bryant.
Orbison was also involved with charitable causes in aid of the homeless. For Showtime, in 1990, she produced a Roy Orbison tribute at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles that raised in excess of $1 million for the city's homeless. She personally funded "Orbison House", a 21-unit residence for the mentally impaired homeless of Los Angeles.
Barbara Orbison was hospitalised from May 2011 until her death on 6 December 2011, aged 61, from pancreatic cancer, 23 years to the day after her husband's death. She was buried next to her husband at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. This was followed by a celebration of her life in Nashville, Tennessee. She is survived by her sons Roy Kelton Orbison (born 1970), Alexander Orbison (born 1974) and her step-son Wesley K Orbison (born 1965).
- Barbara Orbison interview at timesonline.co.uk
- "Widow of singer Roy Orbison," Los Angeles Times obituary