Oh, Pretty Woman

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For the film named after this song, see Pretty Woman.
"Oh, Pretty Woman"
Single by Roy Orbison
B-side "Yo te Amo María"
Released August 1964
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 1964
Genre Rock
Length 2:55
Label Monument 45-851
Writer(s) Roy Orbison, Bill Dees
Producer(s) Fred Foster
Roy Orbison singles chronology
"It's Over"
"Oh, Pretty Woman"
Music sample

"Oh, Pretty Woman" is a song recorded by Roy Orbison, written by Orbison and Bill Dees.[1] It was released as a single in August 1964 on Monument Records and spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 26, 1964 - the second single by Orbison to top the US charts.[2] It was also Orbison's third single to top the UK Singles Chart (for a total of three weeks).[3] The record ultimately sold seven million copies and marked the high point in Orbison's career.[4] Within months of its release, in October 1964, the single was certified gold by the RIAA.[5] At the year's end, Billboard ranked it the number four song of 1964.[6][better source needed]

The lyrics tell the story of a man who sees a pretty woman walking by. He yearns for her and wonders if, as beautiful as she is, she might be lonely like he is. At the last minute, she turns back and joins him. The title was inspired by Orbison's wife, Claudette, interrupting a conversation to announce she was going out. When Orbison asked if she had enough cash, his co-writer Bill Dees interjected, "A pretty woman never needs any money."[7] Orbison's recording of the song, which used four guitars,[citation needed] was produced by Fred Foster.[1]

Orbison posthumously won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his live recording of "Pretty Woman" on his HBO television special Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night. In 1999, the song was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and was named one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #222 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time." On May 14, 2008, The Library of Congress selected the song for preservation in the National Recording Registry.


There were four guitar players on the session: Roy Orbison, Billy Sanford, Jerry Kennedy, and Wayne Moss. Billy Sanford, who later played session for Elvis and Don Williams and many others, played the intro guitar. Williams introduced him as a kid who had just arrived Nashville, with a borrowed guitar, who heard Orbison was minus a guitar player, who went over and got the gig. Other musicians on the record included Floyd Cramer on piano, Bob Moore on an upright bass, Boots Randolph and Charlie McCoy on sax, and Buddy Harman and Paul Garrison on drums. Orbison played a 12-string Epiphone.

Lawsuit against 2 Live Crew[edit]

In 1989, the controversial rap group 2 Live Crew recorded a parody of the Orbison song, using the alternate title "Pretty Woman" for their album As Clean As They Wanna Be. The 2 Live Crew sampled the distinctive bassline from the Orbison song, but the romantic lyrics were replaced by talk about a hairy woman and her bald-headed friend and their appeal to the singer, as well as denunciation of a "two-timing woman."

Orbison's publisher, Acuff-Rose Music sued 2 Live Crew on the basis that the fair use doctrine did not permit reuse of their copyrighted material for profit. The case, Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided in 2 Live Crew's favor, greatly expanding the doctrine of fair use and extending its protections to parodies created for profit. It is considered a seminal fair use decision.[8]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1964–65) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[9] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[10] 5
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[11] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 40 Wallonia)[12] 5
Canada (RPM)[13] 1
Denmark (IFPI)[14] 3
France (IFOP)[15] 8
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[16] 9
Germany (Official German Charts)[17] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[18] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[19] 3
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[20] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[21] 1
New Zealand (Lever Hit Parade)[22] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[23] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[24] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[25] 1

Sales and certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada 180,000[26]
Germany 350,000[26]
United Kingdom 680,000[26]
United States (RIAA)[27] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Cover versions and parodies[edit]

The song has been covered by a number of artists:


  1. ^ a b Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 85. ISBN 0-85112-250-7. 
  2. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of #1 Hits, 5th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 157.
  3. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 186. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  4. ^ Lehman, Peter. Roy Orbison: Invention of an Alternative Rock Masculinity. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2003, p. 2, 13
  5. ^ "American certifications – Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman". Recording Industry Association of America. 
  6. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1964
  7. ^ Amburn, Ellis. Dark Star: The Roy Orbison Story. New York: Carol Publishing, 1990, p. 127
  8. ^ Jackson, Matt (March 1995). "Commerce versus art: The transformation of fair use". Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. 39 (2): 190–199. doi:10.1080/08838159509364298. 
  9. ^ Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book (1940–1969). Turramurra: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-44439-5. 
  10. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  11. ^ "Ultratop.be – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  12. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 76 (50): 19. December 12, 1964. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  13. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 2, No. 5, September 28 1964". RPM. Walt Grealis. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 76 (49): 15. December 5, 1964. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  15. ^ "Accès direct à ces Artistes: Roy Orbison" (select "Roy ORBISON" and then click "Go") (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved August 21, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 77 (1): 19. January 2, 1965. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  17. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  18. ^ "Search the Charts" (enter "Roy Orbison" into the "Search by Artist" box, then select "Search"). irishcharts.ie. Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 1, 1965" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  20. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  21. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". VG-lista. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  22. ^ http://www.flavourofnz.co.nz/index.php?qpageID=Lever%20hit%20parades&qyear=1964&qmonth=Oct&qweek=22-Oct-1964#n_view_location
  23. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 77 (8): 24. February 20, 1965. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  24. ^ "Archive Chart: 1964-10-10" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  25. ^ "Roy Orbison – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Roy Orbison. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  26. ^ a b c Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2, illustrated ed.). Barrie & Jenkins. ISBN 0-214-20480-4. Retrieved August 21, 2014. 
  27. ^ "American single certifications – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 21, 2014.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  28. ^ The Newbeats, "Remember Love" single release Retrieved April 25, 2015
  29. ^ Chad Childers. "Van Halen, 'Oh Pretty Woman' – Banned Music Videos". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2015-03-21. 
  30. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 656.
  31. ^ "Beat it with borrowed tunes". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  32. ^ Ray Dylan (2010-11-01). "Ray Dylan, Goeie Ou Country – Vol.2, CDs, Musica A World awaits – 6005298030511". Musica.co.za. Archived from the original on January 10, 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"The House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals
US Billboard Hot 100 number one single
"Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison

September 26, 1964 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Do Wah Diddy Diddy" by Manfred Mann
Preceded by
"Save It For Me" by The Four Seasons
Canada RPM number one single
"Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison

September 28, 1964 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Do Wah Diddy Diddy" by Manfred Mann
Preceded by
"I'm Into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits
UK number one single
"Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison (first run)

October 8, 1964 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" by Sandie Shaw
Preceded by
"I Should Have Known Better"/"If I Fell" by The Beatles
Australia Kent Music Reportnumber one single
"Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison

October 10, 1964 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Have I the Right?" by The Honeycombs
Preceded by
"Have I the Right?" by The Honeycombs
New Zealand Lever Hit Parade number one single
"Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison

October 22, 1964 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"We'll Sing In The Sunshine" by Gale Garnet
Preceded by
"I'm Into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits
Ireland IRMA number one single
"Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison

October 15, 1964 (one week)
Succeeded by
"From the Candy Store on the Corner to the Chapel on the Hill" by Dickie Rock
Preceded by
"(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" by Sandie Shaw
UK number one single
"Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison (second run)

November 12, 1964 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Baby Love" by The Supremes