Oh, Pretty Woman

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For the film named after this song, see Pretty Woman.
"Pretty Woman"
Single by Roy Orbison
B-side "Yo te Amo María"
Released August 1964
Genre Rock and roll, country rock
Length 2:55
Label Monument 45-851
Writer(s) Roy Orbison, Bill Dees[1]
Producer(s) Fred Foster[1]
Roy Orbison singles chronology
"It's Over"
"Oh, Pretty Woman"

"Oh, Pretty Woman" is a song, released in August 1964, which was a worldwide success for Roy Orbison. Recorded on the Monument Records label in Nashville, Tennessee, it was written by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees. The song spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.[2] Billboard ranked the record as the No. 4 song of 1964.[3] "Pretty Woman" was also Orbison's third single to top the UK Singles Chart chart (for a total of three weeks).[4] The previous Orbison singles to reach No.1 in the UK were "Only the Lonely" in 1960 and "It's Over" earlier in 1964.[4]

There were three guitar players on the session, 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 also played a 12 string epiphone.

The record sold seven million copies and marked the high point in Orbison's career.[5] Within months of its release, in October 1964, the single was awarded a gold record by RIAA.[6] Orbison posthumously won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his live recording of the song 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 and in 2012, Texas Music magazine ranked the song No. 7 on its list of "The Top 50 Classic Texas Songs."


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 was okay for cash, his co-writer Bill Dees interjected "A pretty woman never needs any money."[7]

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 germinal fair use decision.[8]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Preceded by
"The House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals
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
"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
"(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

Cover versions and parodies[edit]

The song has been covered by a number of artists:

In other media[edit]


  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. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1964
  4. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 186. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  5. ^ Lehman, Peter. Roy Orbison: Invention of an Alternative Rock Masculinity. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2003, p. 2, 13
  6. ^ "American certifications – Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman". Recording Industry Association of America. 
  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. ^ "Officialcharts.de – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". GfK Entertainment. 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. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media) 77 (8): 24. February 20, 1965. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  23. ^ "Archive Chart: 1964-10-10" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  24. ^ "Roy Orbison – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Roy Orbison. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ "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
  27. ^ The Newbeats, "Remember Love" single release Retrieved April 25, 2015
  28. ^ Chad Childers. "Van Halen, ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ – Banned Music Videos". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2015-03-21. 
  29. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 656.
  30. ^ Ray Dylan (2010-11-01). "Ray Dylan, Goeie Ou Country - Vol.2, CDs, Musica A World awaits - 6005298030511". Musica.co.za. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 

External links[edit]