"Oh, Pretty Woman"
Single by Roy Orbison and the Candy Men
from the album Oh, Pretty Woman (non-US)
B-side"Yo te Amo María"
PublishedAugust 26, 1964 (1964-08-26) Acuff-Rose Publications, Inc.[1]
ReleasedAugust 15, 1964
RecordedAugust 1, 1964[2]
StudioFred Foster Sound Studio, Nashville, Tennessee[2]
GenreRock and roll
Producer(s)Fred Foster
Roy Orbison and the Candy Men singles chronology
"It's Over"
"Oh, Pretty Woman"
Audio sample

"Oh, Pretty Woman", or simply "Pretty Woman", is a song recorded by Roy Orbison, written by Orbison and Bill Dees.[3] 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 and final single by Orbison (after "Running Scared" to top the US charts.[4] It was also Orbison's third single to top the UK Singles Chart (for a total of three weeks).[5]

The single version (in mono) and the LP version (in stereo on the Oribisongs LP) have slightly differing lyrics. The LP version with the intended lyric: "come with me baby" was changed for the single to "come to me baby" as the former was considered too risque. The record ultimately sold seven million copies and marked the high point in Orbison's career.[6] In October 1964, the single was certified gold by the RIAA.[7] At the year's end, Billboard ranked it the number four song of 1964.[8]

"Oh, Pretty Woman" was later used for the title of the 1990 film Pretty Woman and its 2018 Broadway musical adaptation.

Acuff-Rose Music's lawsuit over a parody of "Oh, Pretty Woman" by 2 Live Crew led to a Supreme Court ruling establishing that parody was a valid form of fair use.[9]


The title was inspired by Orbison's wife, Claudette, interrupting a conversation to announce that 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."[10]

Orbison's recording of the song was produced by Fred Foster[3] and engineered by Bill Porter[11] on August 1, 1964. There were four guitar players at the session: Orbison, Billy Sanford, Jerry Kennedy, and Wayne Moss.[12] Sanford, who later played on sessions for Elvis Presley, Don Williams, and many others, played the song's introductory guitar riff. Other musicians on the recording 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.[12] Dees sang harmony vocals, as he did on many Orbison songs.[13] Billboard described the song as having a "great dance beat coupled with fine arrangement."[14] Cash Box described it as "a catchy, quick-beat salute with a number of ear-catching rockin' ingredients."[15]

Orbison posthumously won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for the recording of "Oh, Pretty Woman" from his 1988 HBO television special Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night. In 1999, the song was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame 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 the song at number 224 on their "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list. On May 14, 2008, the Library of Congress selected the song for preservation in the National Recording Registry.

Promotional video

A promotional video for the song directed by Stanley Dorfman[16][17] was filmed on October 19, 1964, in the rooftop garden of the Derry and Toms department store in Kensington, London. The clip was filmed to air on Top of the Pops on October 22, as Orbison was unable to attend the show's live taping. It subsequently aired on October 29, November 12, and November 19.[16][17]

Copyright issue

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

In 1989, Miami bass group 2 Live Crew recorded "Pretty Woman", a parody of "Oh, Pretty Woman", for their album As Clean as They Wanna Be. The group sampled the distinctive bassline from the Orbison song, but wrote new lyrics about a hairy woman, her bald-headed friend, and their appeal to the singer, as well as denunciation of a "two-timing woman."

Orbison's music publisher, Acuff-Rose Music, sued 2 Live Crew on the basis that fair use did not permit reuse of their copyrighted material for profit. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2 Live Crew's favor in 1994, greatly expanding the doctrine of fair use and extending its protections to parodies created for profit.[9]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada 180,000[39]
Germany 350,000[39]
United Kingdom (BPI)[40] Platinum 680,000[39]
United States (RIAA)[41] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Van Halen version

"(Oh) Pretty Woman"
Single by Van Halen
from the album Diver Down
B-side"Happy Trails"
ReleasedJanuary 18, 1982 (1982-01-18)[42]
StudioSunset Sound, Hollywood
GenreHard rock
  • 2:55 (single version)
  • 4:34 (with "Intruder")
LabelWarner Bros.
Producer(s)Ted Templeman
Van Halen singles chronology
"(Oh) Pretty Woman"
"Dancing in the Street"

Van Halen recorded a cover of "Oh, Pretty Woman" to be released as a non-album single in January 1982 before a planned hiatus. However, its sudden success brought much pressure from Warner Bros. Records, the band's label, to produce an entire LP; the resulting album, Diver Down, was released in August 1982.

On the Diver Down album and in the song's music video, "(Oh) Pretty Woman" is preceded by the instrumental "Intruder", which features frontman David Lee Roth playing an Electro-Harmonix synthesizer.[43]

Music video

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Oh, Pretty Woman" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (August 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

David Lee Roth wrote "Intruder" because the video the band had filmed for "(Oh) Pretty Woman" was longer than the song's running time.[43]

In the music video, filmed at Indian Dunes near Valencia, California, the band members appear dressed as a samurai (bassist Michael Anthony), Tarzan (drummer Alex Van Halen), a cowboy (guitarist Eddie Van Halen), and Napoleon (Roth).[44] Per a hunch-backed onlooker's request, they rescue a captive girl. It was one of the first videos banned by MTV, due to its opening sequence featuring the captive girl (played by International Chrysis) being tied up and fondled against her will by a pair of dwarves. At the end of the video, she is revealed to be a man cross-dressing. The ban was eventually lifted, as MTV Classic would later air the video.[45]


"Oh, Pretty Woman" was Van Halen's second Top 20 hit in the United States, peaking at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100,[46] and peaked at number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

Weekly charts
Chart (1982) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[47] 59
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[48] 40
Canada RPM Top Singles[22] 15
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[48] 28
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[48] 47
UK Singles (OCC) 47
US Billboard Hot 100[49] 12
US Billboard Mainstream Rock 1
US Cash Box Top 100[50] 10
Year-end charts
Chart (1982) Rank
Canada[51] 51
US Top Pop Singles (Billboard)[52] 88
US Cash Box[53] 66

See also


  1. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office. (1964). Catalog of Copyright Entries 3D Ser Vol 18 Pt 5. United States Copyright Office. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  2. ^ a b Weize, Richard (2001). Orbison 1955-1965 (7-CD Deluxe Box Set) (booklet). Bear Family Records. BCD16423. Retrieved 2021-10-11.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of #1 Hits, 5th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 157.
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 186. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  6. ^ Lehman, Peter. Roy Orbison: Invention of an Alternative Rock Masculinity. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2003, p. 2, 13
  7. ^ "American certifications – Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman". Recording Industry Association of America.
  8. ^ "Hot 100 Singles of 1964" (PDF). Billboard. January 2, 1965.
  9. ^ a b 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.
  10. ^ Amburn, Ellis. Dark Star: The Roy Orbison Story. New York: Carol Publishing, 1995, p. 127
  11. ^ The Monument Story (Media notes). Various. New York, New York: Sony Music Entertainment. A2K66106.((cite AV media notes)): CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ "It's Over by Roy Orbison". Songfacts. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  14. ^ "Singles Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. August 15, 1964. p. 12. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  15. ^ "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. August 22, 1964. p. 12. Retrieved 2022-01-12.
  16. ^ a b Humphries, Patrick (2013). Top of the Pops: 50th Anniversary (First ed.). New York: McNidder and Grace Limited. pp. 3, 27. ISBN 9780857160522.
  17. ^ a b Simpson, Jeff (2002). Top of the Pops: 1964-2002: It's still Number One!. BBC Consumer Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-0563534761.
  18. ^ Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book (1940–1969). Turramurra: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-44439-5.
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  20. ^ "Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  21. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 76, no. 50. Prometheus Global Media. December 12, 1964. p. 19. ISSN 0006-2510.
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  23. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 76, no. 49. Prometheus Global Media. December 5, 1964. p. 15. ISSN 0006-2510.
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 77, no. 1. Prometheus Global Media. January 2, 1965. p. 19. ISSN 0006-2510.
  26. ^ "Search the Charts". irishcharts.ie. Irish Recorded Music Association. Archived from the original (enter "Roy Orbison" into the "Search by Artist" box, then select "Search") on July 21, 2011. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  27. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 1, 1965" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  28. ^ "Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  29. ^ "Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". VG-lista. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  30. ^ "flavour of new zealand - Lever hit parades". www.flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  31. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 77, no. 8. Prometheus Global Media. February 20, 1965. p. 24. ISSN 0006-2510.
  32. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  33. ^ "Roy Orbison Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  34. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved May 28, 2019. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Roy Orbison"
  35. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1964". Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  36. ^ Lane, Dan (18 November 2012). "The biggest selling singles of every year revealed! (1952–2011)". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  37. ^ "The 100 best-selling singles of 1964 [in the U.K.]". www.sixtiescity.net. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  38. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1964/Top 100 Songs of 1964". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  39. ^ 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. three weeks simultaneously.
  40. ^ "British single certifications – Roy Orbison – Oh Pretty Woman". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  41. ^ "American single certifications – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  42. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Van Halen - Pretty Woman". hitparade.ch.
  43. ^ a b "Intruder". Van Halen News Desk. 2013-05-23. Retrieved 2023-02-17.
  44. ^ "Van Halen's 5 Best Music Videos". Billboard.
  45. ^ Chad Childers (7 December 2012). "Van Halen, 'Oh Pretty Woman' – Banned Music Videos". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  46. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 656.
  47. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 319. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  48. ^ a b c "Van Halen - Pretty Woman". ultratop.be.
  49. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  50. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 4/24/82". Cashboxmagazine.com. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  51. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2016-08-11. Retrieved 2020-03-26.
  52. ^ "Talent in Action : Top Pop Singles". Billboard. Vol. 94, no. 51. December 25, 1982. p. TIA-20.
  53. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 25, 1982". Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved March 26, 2020.

Further reading