Oh, Pretty Woman

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"Oh, Pretty Woman"
Single by Roy Orbison and the Candy Men
from the album Oh, Pretty Woman (non-US)
B-side"Yo te Amo María"
PublishedAugust 26, 1964 (1964-08-26) Acuff-Rose Publications, Inc.[1]
ReleasedAugust 15, 1964
RecordedAugust 1, 1964[2]
StudioFred Foster Sound Studio, Nashville, Tennessee[2]
GenreRock and roll
Producer(s)Fred Foster
Roy Orbison and The Candy Men singles chronology
"It's Over"
"Oh, Pretty Woman"
Audio sample

"Oh, Pretty Woman" or simply "Pretty Woman" is a song recorded by Roy Orbison, written by Orbison and Bill Dees.[3] It was released as a single in August 1964 on Monument Records and spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 from September 26, 1964, the second and final single by Orbison to top the US charts.[4] It was also Orbison's third single to top the UK Singles Chart (for a total of three weeks).[5]

The single version (in mono) and the LP version (in stereo on the Oribisongs LP) have slightly differing lyrics. The LP version with the intended lyric: "come with me baby" was changed for the single to "come to me baby" as the former was considered too risque. The record ultimately sold seven million copies and marked the high point in Orbison's career.[6] Within months of its release, in October 1964, the single was certified gold by the RIAA.[7] At the year's end, Billboard ranked it the number four song of 1964.[8]

"Oh, Pretty Woman" was later used for the title of the 1990 film Pretty Woman starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, and the 2018 Broadway musical Pretty Woman: The Musical.

Acuff-Rose's suing of a parody song based on Oh, Pretty Woman established that parody was a valid form of fair use.


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."[9]

Orbison's recording of the song was produced by Fred Foster[3] on August 1, 1964. There were four guitar players at the session: Roy Orbison, Billy Sanford, Jerry Kennedy, and Wayne Moss.[10] Sanford, who later played on sessions for Elvis Presley, Don Williams and many others, played the intro guitar. Other musicians on the record included Floyd Cramer on piano, Henry Strzelecki on upright bass, Boots Randolph and Charlie McCoy on saxophones, Buddy Harman on drums, and Paul Garrison on percussion.[10] Co-writer Bill Dees sang high harmony, as he did on many Orbison songs.[11] Bill Porter served as recording engineer.[12] Billboard described the song as having a "great dance beat coupled with fine arrangement."[13] Cash Box described it as "a catchy, quick-beat salute with a number of ear-catching rockin' ingredients."[14]

Orbison posthumously won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his live recording of "Oh 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 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 number 224 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.

Music video[edit]

The music video was filmed on October 19, 1964, in the rooftop garden of London's Kensington-based Derry and Toms department store, to air on Top of the Pops on October 22 as a visual accompaniment to Orbison's song he was unable to attend the live taping. It subsequently aired on October 29, November 12, and November 19. It was directed by Stanley Dorfman.[15][16]

Copyright issue[edit]

In 1989, 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. 2 Live Crew sampled the distinctive bassline from the Orbison song, but replaced the original lyrics with 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.[17]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada 180,000[39]
Germany 350,000[39]
United Kingdom (BPI)[40] Platinum 680,000[39]
United States (RIAA)[41] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Van Halen version[edit]

"(Oh) Pretty Woman"
Single by Van Halen
from the album Diver Down
B-side"Happy Trails"
ReleasedJanuary 18, 1982 (1982-01-18)[42]
StudioSunset Sound, Hollywood
GenreHard rock
  • 2:55 (single version)
  • 4:34 (Album version with "Intruder" intro)
LabelWarner Bros.
Producer(s)Ted Templeman
Van Halen singles chronology
"(Oh) Pretty Woman"
"Dancing in the Street"

Van Halen recorded the song as a stand-alone (non-album) single, before a planned hiatus. However, its sudden success brought much pressure from Warner Bros to quickly produce an entire LP, the result being their 1982 LP Diver Down.

"Oh, Pretty Woman" was preceded by a 1-minute, 40-second intro, entitled "Intruder", which featured David Lee Roth playing a very simple riff on a small plastic, Electroharmonix keyboard.[citation needed]

Music video[edit]

David Lee Roth attempted to make a music video for his version of the song by combing "Intruder" and "(Oh) Pretty Woman" to accommodate the video's full running time. David Lee Roth wrote Intruder because the video they had made was too long for the running-time of "(Oh) Pretty Woman."[43] In the music video, filmed at Indian Dunes, the band members dress as a samurai (bassist Michael Anthony), Tarzan (drummer Alex Van Halen), a cowboy (guitarist Eddie Van Halen), and Napoleon (frontman David Lee Roth).[44] Per a hunch-backed onlooker's request, they rescue a captive girl. It was one of the first videos banned by MTV, due to its opening sequence.[45] The captive girl (in reality, a Los Angeles drag queen) is tied up and fondled against her will by a pair of dwarves. The ban was eventually lifted, as MTV sister network VH1 Classic (now MTV Classic) would later air the video.[45]


"Oh, Pretty Woman" was Van Halen's second Top 20 hit, peaking at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100,[46] and also peaking at number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

Weekly charts
Chart (1982) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[47] 59
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[48] 40
Canada RPM Top Singles[22] 15
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[48] 28
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[48] 47
UK Singles (OCC) 47
US Billboard Hot 100[49] 12
US Billboard Mainstream Rock 1
US Cash Box Top 100[50] 10
Year-end charts
Chart (1982) Rank
Canada[51] 51
US Top Pop Singles (Billboard)[52] 88
US Cash Box[53] 66

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office. (1964). Catalog of Copyright Entries 3D Ser Vol 18 Pt 5. United States Copyright Office. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  2. ^ a b Weize, Richard (2001). Orbison 1955-1965 (7-CD Deluxe Box Set) (booklet). Bear Family Records. BCD16423. Retrieved 2021-10-11.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of #1 Hits, 5th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 157.
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 186. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  6. ^ Lehman, Peter. Roy Orbison: Invention of an Alternative Rock Masculinity. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2003, p. 2, 13
  7. ^ "American certifications – Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman". Recording Industry Association of America.
  8. ^ "Hot 100 Singles of 1964" (PDF). Billboard. January 2, 1965.
  9. ^ Amburn, Ellis. Dark Star: The Roy Orbison Story. New York: Carol Publishing, 1995, p. 127
  10. ^ a b Phonograph Recording Contract, Local Union No. 257, Fred Foster Sound Studios, Nashville, TN: American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, 7 September 1964
  11. ^ "It's Over by Roy Orbison". Songfacts. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  12. ^ The Monument Story (Media notes). Various. New York, New York: Sony Music Entertainment. A2K66106.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  13. ^ "Singles Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. August 15, 1964. p. 12. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  14. ^ "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. August 22, 1964. p. 12. Retrieved 2022-01-12.
  15. ^ Humphries, Patrick (2013). Top of the Pops: 50th Anniversary (First ed.). New York: McNidder and Grace Limited. pp. 3, 27. ISBN 9780857160522.
  16. ^ Simpson, Jeff. Top of the Pops: 1964-2002: It's still Number One!. BBC Consumer Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-0563534761.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book (1940–1969). Turramurra: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-44439-5.
  19. ^ "Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  20. ^ "Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  21. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 76, no. 50. Prometheus Global Media. December 12, 1964. p. 19. ISSN 0006-2510.
  22. ^ a b "Top Singles – Volume 2, No. 5, September 28 1964". RPM. Walt Grealis. Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  23. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 76, no. 49. Prometheus Global Media. December 5, 1964. p. 15. ISSN 0006-2510.
  24. ^ "Accès direct à ces Artistes: Roy Orbison" (in French). InfoDisc. Archived from the original (select "Roy ORBISON" and then click "Go") on September 24, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  25. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 77, no. 1. Prometheus Global Media. January 2, 1965. p. 19. ISSN 0006-2510.
  26. ^ "Search the Charts". irishcharts.ie. Irish Recorded Music Association. Archived from the original (enter "Roy Orbison" into the "Search by Artist" box, then select "Search") on July 21, 2011. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  27. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 1, 1965" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  28. ^ "Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  29. ^ "Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". VG-lista. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  30. ^ "flavour of new zealand - Lever hit parades". www.flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  31. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 77, no. 8. Prometheus Global Media. February 20, 1965. p. 24. ISSN 0006-2510.
  32. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  33. ^ "Roy Orbison Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  34. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved May 28, 2019. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Roy Orbison"
  35. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1964". Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  36. ^ Lane, Dan (18 November 2012). "The biggest selling singles of every year revealed! (1952–2011)". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  37. ^ "The 100 best-selling singles of 1964 [in the U.K.]". www.sixtiescity.net. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  38. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1964/Top 100 Songs of 1964". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  39. ^ 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. three weeks simultaneously.
  40. ^ "British single certifications – Roy Orbison – Oh Pretty Woman". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  41. ^ "American single certifications – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  42. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Van Halen - Pretty Woman". hitparade.ch.
  43. ^ "Intruder". Van Halen News Desk. 2013-05-23. Retrieved 2023-02-17.
  44. ^ "Van Halen's 5 Best Music Videos". Billboard.
  45. ^ a b Chad Childers (7 December 2012). "Van Halen, 'Oh Pretty Woman' – Banned Music Videos". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  46. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 656.
  47. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 319. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  48. ^ a b c "Van Halen - Pretty Woman". ultratop.be.
  49. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  50. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 4/24/82". Cashboxmagazine.com. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  51. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2016-08-11. Retrieved 2020-03-26.
  52. ^ "Talent in Action : Top Pop Singles". Billboard. Vol. 94, no. 51. December 25, 1982. p. TIA-20.
  53. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 25, 1982". Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved March 26, 2020.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]