Roy Orbison was writing with his songwriting partner Bill Dees at his house when he told Dees to get started writing by playing anything that came to mind. Orbison’s wife Claudette came in and said she was going to go into town to buy something. Orbison asked if she needed any money, and Dees cracked, “Pretty woman never needs any money.” Inspired, Orbison started singing, “Pretty woman walking down the street.”
And thus was born this song, according to Dees …
“He sang it while I was banging my hand down on the table and by the time she returned we had the song. I love the song. From the moment that the rhythm started, I could hear the heels clicking on the pavement, click, click, the pretty woman walking down the street, in a yellow skirt and red shoes. We wrote Oh Pretty Woman on a Friday, the next Friday we recorded it, and the next Friday it was out. It was the fastest thing I ever saw. Actually, the yeah, yeah, yeah in Oh Pretty Woman probably came from The Beatles.”
A bit of a sad backstory … Orbison and his wife Claudette had recently reconciled after some tough times, but as this song was climbing the charts, Roy found out she had been cheating on him and filed for divorce. In 1966, they remarried, but two months later Claudette was killed when the motorcycle she was riding was hit by a truck. Orbison faced tragedy again when his two oldest sons died in a fire at his home in 1968. He was on tour at the time.
This was Orbison’s last big hit. His career faded fast, but was revived in the ’80s when prominent musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and George Harrison cited him as an influence and invited him to join various projects. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and joined The Traveling Wilburys with Dylan, Tom Petty, Harrison and Jeff Lynne. As he was enjoying this career revival, he died of a heart attack on December 6, 1988 at age 52.
Roy Orbison Jr.
Pretty woman, walking down the street
Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet
Pretty woman, I don’t believe you, you’re not the truth
No one could look as good as you, mercy
Pretty woman, won’t you pardon me?
Pretty woman, I couldn’t help but see
Pretty woman, you look lovely as can be
Are you lonely just like me?
Pretty woman, stop awhile
Pretty woman, talk awhile
Pretty woman, give your smile to me
Pretty woman, yeah, yeah, yeah
Pretty woman, look my way
Pretty woman, say you’ll stay with me
‘Cause I need you, I’ll treat you right
Come to me, baby, be mine tonight
Pretty woman, don’t walk on by
Pretty woman, don’t make me cry
Pretty woman, don’t walk away, hey, okay
If that’s the way it must be, okay
I guess I’ll go on home, it’s late
There’ll be tomorrow night, but wait
What do I see?
Is she walking back to me
Yeah, she’s walking back to me
Oh, oh, pretty woman
Songwriters: Roy Orbison / Bill Dees
Pretty Woman lyrics © Sony/atv Acuff Rose Music, Barbara Orbison Music Company, Roy Orbison Music Company, Barbara Orbison Music Co., Roy Orbison Music Co., Kobalt Music Publishing Limited, Sony Atv Music Publishing France, Universal Muzik Taksim Ed. A. S., Sony Atv Acuff Rose Music, Evergreen Copyrights Obo Barbara Orbison Music, Evergreen Copyrights Obo Orbi-lee Music, Evergreen Copyright Obo R-key Darkus