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"Oh, Pretty Woman" or "Pretty Woman" is a song recorded by Roy Orbison, written by Orbison and Bill Dees.[2] 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.[3] It was also Orbison's third single to top the UK Singles Chart (for a total of three weeks).[4] The record ultimately 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 certified gold by the RIAA.[6] At the year's end, Billboard ranked it the number four song of 1964.[7] "Oh, Pretty Woman" was eventually the basis for the 1990 film Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and the 2018 Broadway musical Pretty Woman: The Musical.

"Oh, Pretty Woman"
Single by Roy Orbison and the Candy Men
B-side"Yo te Amo María"
ReleasedAugust 28, 1964[1]
Format7-inch single
RecordedAugust 1, 1964
GenreRock and roll
Producer(s)Fred Foster
Roy Orbison and The Candy Men singles chronology
"It's Over"
"Oh, Pretty Woman"
Audio sample


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 had enough cash, his co-writer Bill Dees interjected, "A pretty woman never needs any money."[8]

Orbison's recording of the song was produced by Fred Foster[2] on 1 August 1964. There were four guitar players on the session: Roy Orbison, Billy Sanford, Jerry Kennedy, and Wayne Moss.[9] Sanford, who later played on sessions for Elvis Presley, Don Williams and many others, played the intro guitar. Williams introduced him as a kid who had just arrived in Nashville, with a borrowed guitar, who heard Orbison was minus a guitar player, went over and got the gig. 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.[9] Orbison played a 12-string Epiphone. Bill Porter served as recording engineer for the song.[10]

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 #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.

Lawsuit against 2 Live CrewEdit

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.[11]

Chart positionsEdit

Chart (1964–65) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[12] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[13] 5
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[14] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 40 Wallonia)[15] 5
Canada (RPM)[16] 1
Denmark (IFPI)[17] 3
France (IFOP)[18] 8
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[19] 9
Ireland (IRMA)[20] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[21] 3
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[22] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[23] 1
New Zealand (Lever Hit Parade)[24] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[25] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[26] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[27] 1
West Germany (Official German Charts)[28] 1

Sales and certificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada 180,000[29]
Germany 350,000[29]
United Kingdom 680,000[29]
United States (RIAA)[30] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Van Halen versionEdit

"(Oh) Pretty Woman"
Single by Van Halen
from the album Diver Down
B-side"Happy Trails"
ReleasedFebruary 1982 (1982-02)
Format7-inch single
RecordedJanuary 1982
StudioSunset Sound, Los Angeles
GenreHard rock
LabelWarner Bros.
Producer(s)Ted Templeman
Van Halen singles chronology
"(Oh) Pretty Woman"
"Dancing in the Street"

Van Halen covered the song on their 1982 album, Diver Down. It was preceded by a synth-driven intro titled "Intruder". 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 running time.

In the music video, 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 hunchbacked 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 little people. The ban was eventually lifted, as MTV sister network VH1 Classic would later air the video.[31]

This was the band's second Top 20 hit, peaking at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100,[32] and also peaking at #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

Track listingEdit

Side A
1."(Oh) Pretty Woman" (Roy Orbison cover)Orbison, Dees2:55
Side B
1."Happy Trails" (Roy Rogers cover)Dale Evans1:03

See alsoEdit

Hindi versionEdit

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).[33]


  1. ^
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of #1 Hits, 5th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 157.
  4. ^ 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. ^ "Hot 100 Singles of 1964" (PDF). Billboard. January 2, 1965.
  8. ^ Amburn, Ellis. Dark Star: The Roy Orbison Story. New York: Carol Publishing, 1990, p. 127
  9. ^ a b Phonograph Recording Contract, Local Union No. 257, Fred Foster Sound Studios, Nashville, TN: American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, 7 September 1964
  10. ^ The Monument Story (Media notes). Various. New York, New York: Sony Music Entertainment. A2K66106.CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book (1940–1969). Turramurra: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-44439-5.
  13. ^ " – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  14. ^ " – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  15. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 76 (50): 19. December 12, 1964. ISSN 0006-2510.
  16. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 2, No. 5, September 28 1964". RPM. Walt Grealis. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  17. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 76 (49): 15. December 5, 1964. ISSN 0006-2510.
  18. ^ "Accès direct à ces Artistes: Roy Orbison" (in French). InfoDisc. Archived from the original (select "Roy ORBISON" and then click "Go") on September 24, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  19. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 77 (1): 19. January 2, 1965. ISSN 0006-2510.
  20. ^ "Search the Charts" (enter "Roy Orbison" into the "Search by Artist" box, then select "Search"). Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  21. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 1, 1965" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  22. ^ " – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  23. ^ " – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". VG-lista. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  24. ^ "flavour of new zealand - Lever hit parades". Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  25. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 77 (8): 24. February 20, 1965. ISSN 0006-2510.
  26. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  27. ^ "Roy Orbison Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  28. ^ " – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved May 28, 2019. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Roy Orbison"
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ "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. 
  31. ^ Chad Childers. "Van Halen, 'Oh Pretty Woman' – Banned Music Videos". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  32. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 656.
  33. ^ Upadhyay, Karishma (February 10, 2006). "'Roy would have loved the bhangra version'". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved September 15, 2018.

External linksEdit