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"Oh, Pretty Woman" is a song, released in August 1964, which was a worldwide success for Roy Orbison. Recorded on the Monument Records label inNashvilleTennessee, it was written by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees. The song spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.[2] "Pretty Woman" was also Orbison's third single to top the UK Singles Chart chart (for a total of three weeks).[3] The previous Orbison singles to reach No.1 in the UK were "Only the Lonely" in 1960 and "It's Over" earlier in 1964.[3] There were three guitar players on the session, Billy Sanford, Jerry Kennedy and Wayne Moss. Billy Sanford, who later played session for everybody from Elvis to Don Williams (and took to the road with Don in the 1990s) did the kick-off. Williams introduced him as a kid who had just arrived Nashville, with a borrowed guitar, who heard Orbison was minus a guitar player, who went over and got the gig. Other musicians on the record included Floyd Cramer on piano, Bob Moore on an upright bass, Boots Randolph and Charlie McCoy on sax, and Buddy Harman and Paul Garrison on drums. Orbison also played a 12 string epiphone.

The record sold seven million copies and marked the high point in Orbison's career.[4] Five years after its release, in 1969, the single was awarded gold recordby RIAA.[5] Orbison posthumously won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his live recording of the song 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 theRock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #222 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

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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 was okay for cash, his co-writer Bill Dees interjected "A pretty woman never needs any money."[6]

Lawsuit against 2 Live Crew[edit]Edit

Further information: Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

In 1989, the controversial rap group 2 Live Crew recorded a parody of the Orbison song, using the alternate title "Pretty Woman" for their album Clean As They Wanna Be. The 2 Live Crew sampled the distinctive bassline from the Orbison song, but the romantic lyrics were replaced by 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 germinal fair use decision.[7]

Cover versions and parodies[edit]Edit

The song has been covered by a number of artists:

In other media[edit]Edit

  • The original Orbison song inspired the title for the 1990 feature filmPretty Woman starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. The film featured the song, licensed from Orbison's publisher Acuff-Rose. Since the work that the film was based on bore a different title, the producers also licensed the trademark rights to the title.
  • The song was licensed for the 2003 hit Bollywood film Kal Ho Naa Ho.
  • The song appears in the film Dumb and Dumber.
  • The song appears in the French movie La Cité de la Peur.
  • The song is used as the ending song, covered by Kaela Kimura, in the Japanese television drama Attention Please.
  • The Van Halen version of the song was used in the mall scene in the 1985 John Hughes film Weird Science. This has been replaced in UK broadcasts and the initial home video release in the US with theWeird Science theme music by Oingo Boingo, presumably due to music clearance issues. When Weird Science was re-released on DVD in 2006, it was restored.
  • The song was used in the Chris Martin episode of Extras.
  • The song is used in the Belgian film De Helaasheid der Dingen (The Misfortunates). In the movie the Strobbe family believes its fortunes are tied to that of Roy Orbison, leading them to follow his 1988 comeback concert with great enthusiasm.
  • The song is used in Tamil film Goa, when Vaibhav meets Sneha for the first time.
  • This song is featured in the Futurama season 3 episode "The Cyber House Rules".
  • The song is playable in the videogame Band Hero. It was also released as downloadable content for the videogame Rock Band.
  • The song is heard on The Chipmunks' record Rockin' Through the Decades and the episode, "Sploosh" (which was a spoof of the film Splash).
  • The song is used in the episode Frank's Pretty Woman in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
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