About The Song

Oh, Pretty Woman: A Song Analysis

Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” is a timeless classic that transcended generations. This song, released in 1964, continues to resonate with listeners for its catchy melody, soulful vocals, and surprisingly sweet lyrics. This analysis delves into the background of the song’s creation, its musical style, lyrical content, cultural impact, and lasting legacy.

Background

The inspiration for “Oh, Pretty Woman” came from a seemingly mundane conversation. According to legend, Orbison’s wife, Claudette, interrupted a songwriting session to announce she was going out. When Orbison inquired if she had enough money, his co-writer, Bill Dees, remarked, “A pretty woman never needs any money.” This offhand comment sparked the now-iconic opening line, “Pretty woman, walkin’ down the street.” Dees and Orbison quickly fleshed out the song, capturing the protagonist’s infatuation with a beautiful stranger.

While the inspiration was lighthearted, Orbison’s signature baritone added a layer of vulnerability to the song. Orbison had recently lost his first wife, Claudette, to a motorcycle accident, and some believe the song reflects his own longing for connection. This ambiguity adds depth to the song, allowing listeners to interpret it as both a playful pick-up line and a genuine expression of loneliness.

Musical Style

“Oh, Pretty Woman” falls under the umbrella of rock and roll, but it incorporates elements from other genres. The driving beat and prominent electric guitars are undeniably rock-and-roll, but the song also features a melancholic melody and Orbison’s operatic vocals, drawing influence from doo-wop and even country music. This unique blend of styles creates a sound that is both familiar and innovative.

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The instrumentation is relatively simple, featuring a chugging bassline, crisp rhythm guitar, and soaring lead lines. Orbison’s vocals are the centerpiece, with his trademark soaring high notes and dramatic delivery. The song builds in intensity throughout, reaching a fever pitch during the pleading bridge section, “Pretty woman, don’t walk on by / Pretty woman, don’t make me cry / Pretty woman, don’t walk away, hey.” The song then resolves on a hopeful note as the woman returns, leaving the listener with a sense of anticipation.

Lyrics

The lyrics of “Oh, Pretty Woman” are deceptively simple. The protagonist is immediately captivated by the beauty of a woman he sees on the street. He expresses disbelief at her perfection (“Pretty woman, I don’t believe you / You’re not the truth / No one could look as good as you”) before complimenting her and asking if she’s lonely. The song then shifts to a more pleading tone as he begs her to stay with him, promising to treat her right. The final verse offers a glimmer of hope as the woman, who initially walks away, changes her mind and returns to him.

While the lyrics seem straightforward on the surface, there’s a subtle tension woven throughout. The man’s initial disbelief and his over-the-top compliments could be interpreted as objectification. However, the song’s vulnerability and the hopeful ending suggest a more genuine desire for connection. This ambiguity allows listeners to project their own interpretations onto the song.

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Cultural Impact

“Oh, Pretty Woman” became an instant hit upon its release in 1964, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song’s catchy melody and Orbison’s powerful vocals ensured its place in pop culture history. It has been covered by countless artists, from Van Halen to Bonnie Tyler, further solidifying its status as a classic.

Beyond the music industry, “Oh, Pretty Woman” has had a significant cultural impact. The song’s title was borrowed for the hugely successful 1990 film starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. The song itself has been featured in numerous movies and television shows, solidifying its place in the collective consciousness.

However, the song has also faced criticism for its potentially sexist lyrics. The objectification of the woman and the focus on her beauty have caused some listeners to question the song’s message. Despite this criticism, “Oh, Pretty Woman” remains a beloved classic, a testament to its enduring power.

Conclusion

“Oh, Pretty Woman” is more than just a catchy pop song. It’s a cultural touchstone that continues to spark conversation and debate. The song’s blend of musical styles, its ambiguous lyrics, and its lasting impact ensure its place in the history of popular music. Whether interpreted as a playful pick-up line or a heartfelt plea for connection, “Oh, Pretty Woman” remains a song that resonates with listeners of all ages.

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Lyric

“Oh, Pretty Woman”

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics! 🎤

Pretty woman, walking down the street
Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet
Pretty woman
I don’t believe you, you’re not the truth
No one could look as good as youMercyPretty woman, won’t you pardon me?
Pretty woman, I couldn’t help but see
Pretty woman
That you look lovely as can be
Are you lonely just like me?Wow

Pretty woman, stop a while
Pretty woman, talk a while
Pretty woman, give your smile to me
Pretty woman, yeah, yeah, yeah
Pretty woman, look my way
Pretty woman, say you’ll stay with me

‘Cause I need you, I’ll treat you right
Come with me baby, be mine tonight

Pretty woman, don’t walk on by
Pretty woman, don’t make me cry
Pretty woman, don’t walk away, hey…
OK

If that’s the way it must be, OK
I guess I’ll go on home, it’s late
There’ll be tomorrow night, but wait
What do I see?

Is she walking back to me?
Yeah, she’s walking back to me
Oh, oh, pretty woman

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