1964: Oh Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison

Composed by Bill Dees and Roy Orbison. Originally recorded by Roy Orbison and backing group The Candymen. The song tells 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 Roy Orbison’s wife, Claudette, interrupting a conversation to announce she was going out. When Roy Orbison asked if she had enough cash, his co-writer Bill Dees interjected “A pretty woman never needs any money.” Roy Orbison posthumously won the 1990 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.” The song was the inspiration for the 1990 romantic comedy film Pretty Woman which starred Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, and the 2018 theatre production (Pretty Woman The Musical) which premiered in Chicago in the USA. In 2008, The Library of Congress selected the song for preservation in the National Recording Registry in the USA.

In 1989, rap group 2 Live Crew recorded a parody of Oh Pretty Woman using the alternate title Pretty Woman, for their album As Clean As They Wanna Be. 2 Live Crew sampled the distinctive bass-line from Oh Pretty Woman 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. Roy 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 versus Acuff-Rose Music Inc went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided in 2 Live Crew’s favour, greatly expanding the doctrine of fair use and extending its protections to parodies created for profit.

Weekly Chart History (1964 – 1965)Peak Position
Australia1
Austria5
Belgium Top Singles Chart Flanders Region1
Belgium Top Singles Chart Wallonia Region5
Canada1
Denmark3
France8
Finland9
Germany (West)1
Ireland1
Netherlands Dutch Top 40 Chart3
Netherlands Top 100 Singles Chart1
Norway1
New Zealand1
Switzerland1
United Kingdom1
USA Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart1