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The Heart of Rock and Soul

Dave Marsh, 1989

17 ONLY THE LONELY, Roy Orbison
Produced by Fred Foster; written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson
Monument 421 - 1960
Billboard: #2

royorbison.jpg

Roy Orbison came into RCA's Nashville studio for his second session accompanied by two sidekicks. As he rehearsed his new song at the microphone, the friends whispered alongside him. Engineer Bob Porter and producer Fred Foster said it was impossible to record him that way. Well, said Roy, you'd better, because that's the sound of my next record.
What they were singing, of course, was "Dum, dum, dum, dum-dee-doo-wah; ooo, yay, yay, yay, yeah; oh, oh, oh, oo-wah; only the lonely." These nonsense syllables aren't sung or hummed or crooned; they're whispered into our hearts.
Like the rest of Orbison's hits, "Only the Lonely" has tremendous dynamics (made possible by Orbison's near-operatic range) and a lyric that renders everyday heartbreak so universal that it acquires a tinge of the cosmic. What's most remarkable, though, is that at the end, Orbison shrugs off all the agony and asks only for the chance to lose his loneliness to love once again. This transcendental dismissal of the worst life has to offer should by itself earn Orbison a place in the pantheon of rock legends. If Phil Spector is pop music's truest romantic and John Fogerty its greatest fatalist, Roy Orbison stands as its ultimate stoic. Maybe he wore those shades all the time to disguise the fact that he never blinked no matter what you threw at him.

Roy Orbison - Only the lonely - the lyrics
Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah 
Ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah 
Oh-oh-oh-oh-wah 
Only the lonely 

Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah) 
Know the way I feel tonight (ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah) 
Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah) 
Know this feelin' ain't right (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah) 

There goes my baby 
There goes my heart 
They're gone forever 
So far apart 

But only the lonely 
Know why 
I cry 
Only the lonely 

Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah 
Ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah 
Oh-oh-oh-oh-wah 
Only the lonely 

Only the lonely 
Know the heartaches I've been through 
Only the lonely 
Know I cried and cried for you 

Maybe tomorrow 
A new romance 
No more sorrow 
But that's the chance - You gotta take 
If your lonely heart breaks 
Only the lonely 

Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah
Marsh index 0001.htm


From "The Heart of Rock and Soul, The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made", by Dave Marsh, 1989.
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