Ever since that immortal line in "Thunderroad" it is hardly a secret that Bruce Springsteen is a big admirer of Roy Orbison. "In 1975, when I went into the studio to make Born to Run, I wanted to make a record with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector. But most of all, I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison", Springsteen said when he was inducted in the R&R Hall of Fame in 1987. A year later Springsteen was performing "Pretty Woman" on stage with Orbison for the TV Special that was instrumental in his sudden comeback at the tail end of his life. December 6th 1989, Roy collapsed on the steps of his mother's house, he was 52 of age. Roy had just released the Jeff Lynn produced album "Mystery Girl" that found him topping the charts again and was part of the highly successful Traveling Wilburys project that included Lynn, Bob Dylan George Harrison and Tom Petty. Orbison left an impressive legacy of hits of which 1964's "Pretty Woman" was without a doubt the biggest hit, selling 7 million copies in the year it was first released. "Pretty Woman" was Pop perfection, Roy's coy growling may be the most edgy element of the song.
Ironically "Pretty Woman" became part of quite the controversy about a quarter of a century later when the 2 Live Crew built their version around it. Though largely forgotten today, in their time the 2 Live Crew were about as nasty and dirty Hip Hop could get. Their version of "Pretty Woman" kept the signature base line of Orbison's version and basic song structure but they did a completely overhaul on the lyrics. That pretty woman walking down the street became the big hairy woman in desperate need of a shave and a two timin' cheat to boot. A year after the 2 Live Crew issued their version Acuff-Rose Music, Roy's publishing company, filed suit, claiming infringement of copy right. When the 2 Live Crew didn't obtain the license for the sample, they decided to go ahead and release it anyway as a parody, cleverly using the Copy Right Act of 1976 in their advantage. The case was taken all the way up to the Supreme Court eventually. The judges apparently with their sense of humor intact let the 2 Live Crew walk away the big victors. I'll leave it up to you to decide if the joke really was all that good.
Available on The Essential Roy Orbison
2 Live Crew
Available on As Clean as They Wanna Be