Vandaag is het al zestig jaar geleden dat Roy Orbison “Only the lonely” heeft uitgebracht.

Tot mijn stomme verbazing bestaat er geen Nederlandse Wikipedia-pagina over deze klassieker, zodat ik me noodgedwongen tot de Engelse pagina moet wenden…

Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)” is a song written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson. Orbison’s recording of the song, produced by Fred Foster for Monument Records, was the first major hit for the singer. After several years without much success in the music business, and sharing a tiny apartment with his wife and new baby, Roy Orbison had taken to sitting in his car to write songs when, in 1958, his acquaintance Joe Melson tapped on the car window and suggested they collaborate. With Chet Atkins producing, they recorded several songs for RCA Nashville, only two of which were deemed worthy of release. Wesley Rose brought Orbison to the attention of producer Fred Foster at Monument Records. There, Orbison would become one of the first recording artists to popularize the “Nashville sound“. However, “Uptown” only reached number 72 on the Billboard Top 100.

In early 1960, Orbison and Joe Melson wrote one more song, “Only the Lonely”, which they tried to sell to Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers, who turned it down. (The song was subtitled “Know The Way I Feel” to avoid confusion with another song called “Only The Lonely”, which Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen had written for Frank Sinatra in 1958.)

Instead, they recorded “Only the Lonely” themselves at RCA’s Nashville studio, using the string section and doo-wop backing singers that had given “Uptown” such an impressive sound. The recording also featured a falsetto note hit by Orbison that showcased a surprisingly powerful voice. The song differed from the typical verse-chorus form structure of popular music of the time, building and falling to a climax, with emotional expression then rare for masculine performance. According to Orbison historian Marcel Riesco’s research for “The Authorized Roy Orbison”, personnel on the original recording included Orbison’s drummer Larry Parks, plus Nashville’s regulars, Floyd Cramer on piano, Bob Moore on bass, and Hank Garland and Harold Bradley on guitars, Joe Melson and the Anita Kerr Singers on backing vocals. When Presley heard “Only the Lonely” for the first time, the song he had turned down, he bought a box of the records to give out to his friends.

“Only the Lonely” went to No. 2 on the United States Billboard pop music charts on 25 July 1960 (blocked by Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry“). Instantly Orbison was in high demand. He appeared on American Bandstand and toured the U.S. for three months non-stop with Patsy Cline. “Only the Lonely” reached Number One in the United Kingdom, a position it achieved on 20 October 1960, staying there for two weeks (out of a total of 24 weeks spent on the UK singles chart from 28 July 1960). The song hit also number one in Ireland and Australia. In Vlaanderen bereikte het de zesde plaats in de Ultratop en in Nederland de zevende.

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