George Harrison Said Roy Orbison Was Like an Opera Singer and He Kind of Was
George Harrison thought his fellow Traveling Wilbury, Roy Orbison, sounded like an opera singer. All of The Traveling Wilburys was in love with the “Pretty Woman” singer’s voice. It was one-of-a-kind.
George Harrison said Roy Orbison sounded like an opera singer
In 1963, The Beatles were on the same tour as the “Crying” singer. George and Orbison didn’t get close, but Orbison’s influence on George and The Beatles is undeniable.
In 1988, George and Orbison became bandmates in the supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys. Like everyone else in the band, Orbison joined by accident. George needed an extra song for his 1987 album, Cloud Nine. He asked Jeff Lynne to help him while the pair were out to dinner with Orbison. The older singer asked the pair if he could come to watch them work. They recorded at Bob Dylan’s studio and, like Orbison, Tom Petty came to watch the proceedings.
The five rock stars recorded “Handle With Care” after George realized it’d be stupid having them all in the recording studio and not on the song. In May, George got everyone back to record The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. The four felt incredibly lucky to be in a band with Orbison.
During an interview with MTV, Geoge said, “I’ve known Roy Orbison since 1963, but I must say I haven’t seen him for the last 10 years. Incredible voice. He’s like an opera singer.”
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The ‘Only The Lonely’ singer had a three-octave range
Orbison had one of the most distinctive voices in rock ‘n’ roll. George was right; Orbison was like an opera singer.
NPR wrote that he had a “one-of-a-kind voice with a three-octave range and what one writer called a ‘glass-shattering falsetto.’” Elvis Presley called Orbison “the greatest singer in the world.”
The Washington Post wrote, “His clear, near bel canto tenor, spanning three octaves and capped by that elusive E above high C, was one of rock’s most distinctive voices, though calling it ‘operatic’ (he was known as the “Caruso” of pop) undercut its populist appeal. On the other hand Orbison himself used classical devices, most notably crescendo, to turn his ballads into three-minute ‘Boleros’ and little soap operas.”
On The Traveling Wilburys songs, Orbison’s voice always shined.
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George wasn’t the only Wilbury who loved Orbison and his voice
Unfortunately, Orbison died of a heart attack before he could reconvene with his supergroup for a second time to record their follow-up album. Still, his bandmates always remembered him. George wasn’t the only Wilbury who loved Orbison and his operatic voice.
During an interview with MTV (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters), Lynne said, “I’d like to say that Roy was one of the nicest people I ever met, and he was the best singer ever. It’s a real loss to the Wilburys, I might say, and to the world really.”
There was a lot of talent in The Traveling Wilburys, so they always left their egos at the door. However, Petty couldn’t help elevate his bandmate once in a while. They were all fans of each other, after all. Petty used to tell Orbison that he was the best singer in the world.
In a video about the making of The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, Petty said, “Every time we’d start thinking about it [recording the album], ‘Wow, Roy Orbison’s in the band!’”
Petty said it was intimidating recording with Orbison because he had such a great voice. “Sometimes we’d sing the same song just to see who sounded good or this key fits somebody,” Petty explained. “That was a lot of fun. George would kinda audition us, which could be really intimidating. Roy Orbison would sing the song, and then they’d send you out to sing it. It was like, ‘Well, damn, that’s really intimidating.’”
The Traveling Wilburys never thought of replacing Orbison after he died. His memory lived on in the band and his excellent catalog of operatic songs.
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