Oh, Pretty Woman
|"Oh, Pretty Woman"|
|Single by Roy Orbison and the Candy Men|
|B-side||"Yo te Amo María"|
|Recorded||August 1, 1964|
|Genre||Rock, power pop|
|Roy Orbison and The Candy Men singles chronology|
"Oh, Pretty Woman" or "Pretty Woman" is a song recorded by Roy Orbison, written by Orbison and Bill Dees. 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 single by Orbison to top the US charts. It was also Orbison's third single to top the UK Singles Chart (for a total of three weeks).
The record ultimately sold seven million copies and marked the high point in Orbison's career. Within months of its release, in October 1964, the single was certified gold by the RIAA. At the year's end, Billboard ranked it the number four song of 1964.
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."
Orbison's recording of the song was produced by Fred Foster on August 1, 1964. There were four guitar players at the session: Roy Orbison, Billy Sanford, Jerry Kennedy, and Wayne Moss. 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. Bill Porter served as recording engineer. Billboard described the song as having a "great dance beat coupled with fine arrangement."
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 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 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.
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.
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||680,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||1,000,000^|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Van Halen version
|"(Oh) Pretty Woman"|
|Single by Van Halen|
|from the album Diver Down|
|Studio||Sunset Sound, Los Angeles|
|Van Halen singles chronology|
Van Halen recorded the song as a standalone single, before a planned hiatus, until 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 Roth playing a very simple riff on a small plastic, Electroharmonix keyboard. For the video of the single, the two songs were joined, giving a running-time of 4:34. This was done to lengthen the song in order to fit the video's full running time. 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). Per a hunch-backed onlooker's request, they rescue a captive girl (played by transgender entertainer International Chrysis). It was one of the first videos banned by MTV, due to its opening sequence, where the captive girl is tied up and fondled against her will by a pair of dwarves. The ban was eventually lifted, as MTV sister network VH1 Classic would later air the video.
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||59|
|Canada RPM Top Singles||15|
|US Billboard Hot 100||12|
|US Billboard Mainstream Rock||1|
|US Cash Box Top 100||10|
|US Top Pop Singles (Billboard)||88|
|US Cash Box ||66|
- Quebecois band Les Classels recorded a French-language version entitled "Jolie Femme" in 1965.
- The Indian musical trio Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy composed the Hindi song "Pretty Woman", which samples "Oh, Pretty Woman", for the Bollywood film Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003).
- Ray Stevens covers the song on his 2021 bluegrass digital album, Melancholy Fescue. 
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three weeks simultaneously.
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