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"Oh, Pretty Woman" is a song, released in 1964, which was a worldwide hit for Roy Orbison. Recorded on the Monument Records label in Nashville, Tennessee, it was written by Orbison and Bill Dees.
Orbison posthumously won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his live recording of the song on his HBO television special Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night. In 1999, the song was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award 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 it #222 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."
The lyrics tell how the singer watches a pretty woman walk by. He yearns for her and wonders if, as beautiful as she is, she might be lonely like he is. At the last minute, she turns back and joins him.
The title was supposedly inspired by Orbison's wife Claudette interrupting a conversation to announce she was going out; when Orbison asked if she was okay for cash, his friend interjected "A pretty woman never needs any money."
Cover versions and parody
* It was covered by Al Green in 1972 on his album I'm Still in Love With You.
* The song was covered very closely by the group Van Halen in 1982, however with David Lee Roth missing a verse. The music video (which had the band dress as a samurai, Tarzan, a gunfighter, and an early 1800s French General resucing a captive girl) for this version was one of the first banned by MTV, due to its opening sequence, where the captive girl is tied up and fondled against her will by a pair of midgets.
* It was covered in ska style in 1986 by the Holy Sisters of the Gaga Dada.
* Having performed the song in Deutschland sucht den Superstar, Daniel Küblböck recorded the song for hist first album Positive Energie.
* In 1989, the controversial 2 Live Crew recorded a parody of the Orbison song, using the alternate title "Pretty Woman" for their album Clean As They Wanna Be. The 2 Live Crew sampled the distinctive bassline from the Orbison song, but the romantic lyrics were replaced by talk about a hairy woman and her bald-headed friend and their appeal to the singer, as well as denunciation of a "two-timing woman."
* Orbison's publisher, Acuff-Rose Music sued 2 Live Crew on the basis that the fair use doctrine did not permit reuse of their copyrighted material for profit. The case, Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided in 2 Live Crew's favor, greatly expanding the doctrine of fair use and extending its protections to parodies created for profit. It is considered a seminal fair use decision.
* Hong Kong's Samuel Hui covered this song in Cantonese using his comedic lyrics about a woman that looks great from behind until she turned her head and revealed her not so good looking face.
* The riff of the Devo song "Whip It" is largely based on the "Pretty Woman" riff.
In feature films
* The original Orbison song, "Oh, Pretty Woman", also inspired the title for the 1990 feature film, Pretty Woman starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. The film featured the song, so it licensed the song from Orbison. However, since titles cannot be copyrighted, neither Orbison nor 2 Live Crew has any claim on the title of the film.
* The song was also licensed for the 2003 hit Bollywood film Kal Ho Naa Ho, a remarkable incident because the Indian film industry has traditionally not been as conscientious about copyrights and licensing as American filmmakers.
* The song also appears in the film Dumb and Dumber.