About The Song

Background

“Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)” launched Roy Orbison’s career into superstardom. Released in 1960, the song became his first major hit, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart and staying there for two weeks. It proved to be his longest-charting single [Wikipedia: Only the Lonely]. Orbison co-wrote the song with Joe Melson, and producer Fred Foster of Monument Records helped shape it into the dramatic ballad it is known as today.

Musical Style

“Only the Lonely” is a quintessential example of Roy Orbison’s signature style, often referred to as “balladry.” This style is characterized by several key elements:

  • Powerful Vocals: Orbison possessed a rich baritone voice with a four-octave range. He is known for his dramatic phrasing and ability to convey intense emotions through his singing. In “Only the Lonely,” his voice cracks with raw vulnerability as he delivers the lyrics.
  • Melodic Tension: The song utilizes a melancholic melody built on a minor key. Chromaticism, the use of notes outside of the key signature, adds to the song’s emotional tension. The melody lingers on certain notes, creating a sense of longing and despair.
  • Orchestral Drama: Lush orchestral arrangements were a hallmark of Orbison’s sound. “Only the Lonely” features strings, which swell and recede throughout the song, mirroring the emotional turmoil expressed in the lyrics.
  • Driving Rhythm: Despite the melancholic melody, the song is propelled by a steady, upbeat rhythm section. This creates a unique tension between the lyrical sadness and the underlying energy of the music.
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Lyrics

The lyrics of “Only the Lonely” paint a vivid picture of heartbreak and isolation. The opening lines establish the central theme:

Two silhouetted figures in the rain Kiss goodbye for what may never be again

The narrator reflects on a lost love, using imagery of darkness and emptiness to convey his despair.

The empty street’s a vacant stage Our love story fades from every page

The chorus is the most recognizable part of the song, with its signature refrain:

Only the lonely (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah) Know the heartaches I’ve been through (ooh yay, yay, yay, yeah) Only the lonely (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah) Know I cry and cry for you (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)

This repetitive chorus emphasizes the universality of heartbreak and the idea that only those who have experienced similar pain can truly understand the narrator’s feelings.

Cultural Impact

“Only the Lonely” was a massive commercial success, solidifying Roy Orbison’s place as a rising star. It helped define the “ballad” genre and influenced countless artists who followed, including Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and The Killers. The song’s dramatic style became a staple of rock and roll, and its themes of loneliness and heartbreak continue to resonate with listeners today.

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The song’s cultural impact extends beyond music. “Only the Lonely” has been featured in numerous films and television shows, further solidifying its place in popular culture. The song’s title has become a catchphrase used to describe those who are feeling isolated or alone.

Conclusion

“Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)” is a landmark song in Roy Orbison’s career and a cornerstone of rock and roll history. Its powerful vocals, melancholic melody, and tragic lyrics combine to create a timeless ballad of heartbreak. The song’s cultural impact is undeniable, having influenced generations of musicians and becoming a permanent fixture in popular culture. “Only the Lonely” stands as a testament to Orbison’s talent for conveying raw emotion through music, ensuring its place among the greatest ballads ever written.

Video

Lyrics

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics!

Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah
Ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah
Oh-oh-oh-oh-wah
Only the lonely
Only the lonelyOnly 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 feeling ain’t right (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)There goes my baby
There goes my heart
They’re gone forever
So far apartBut only the lonely
Know why
I cry
Only the lonelyDum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah
Ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah
Oh-oh-oh-oh-wah
Only the lonely
Only the lonelyOnly the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)
Know the heartaches I’ve been through (ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah)
Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)
Know I cry and cry for you (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)Maybe tomorrow
A new romance
No more sorrow
But that’s the chance

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You gotta take
If your lonely heart breaks
Only the lonely

Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah

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