Roy Orbison is an accomplished singer-songwriter widely known for his massive hits like ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘You Got It’, and ‘Only The Lonely’. Orbison is famous for his unique operatic style of singing, which earned him the moniker ‘The Caruso of Rock’. His career spanned three decades, which coincided with The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, and more. With such a successful career, many are wondering, how much was Roy Orbison worth at the time of his death?
According to experts, Roy Orbison’s fortune amounts to $20 million after being adjusted for the current inflation. His incomparable career, countless hits, and legendary influence on music keep his estate flourishing.
Who is Roy Orbison?
Roy Kelton Orbison is an iconic singer, songwriter, and musician in America. He stood out of the music scene due to his complex song structures, impassioned singing, and emotional ballads. During his entire career, Orbison was able to release 92 singles, 23 studio albums, 4 live albums, and 24 compilation albums.
Orbison was born on April 23, 1936, in Texas, where he was also raised. His parents are Nadine Shults and Orbie Lee Orbison, a car mechanic. Orbison’s mother was able to outlive him after she passed away in 1992.
Orbison is also known for always wearing dark sunglasses. Aside from being his rock and roll style, it’s said that the Pretty Woman singer used it to fight his stage fright and shyness.
Moreover, Orbison started his journey to music after joining his high school rockabilly band.
From there, Orbison rose to fame as one of the stars of the rock and roll era. Orbison continued to make music and perform until his death.
On December 4, 1988, Orbison played his final show at The Front Row Theater in Ohio. Two days later on December 6, 1988, he passed away due to a heart attack. A pathologist believed that Orbison’s yo-yo dieting caused his death.
The Pretty Lady singer was laid to rest in Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Due to his family’s wishes, Orbison’s grave doesn’t have any marker.
Roy Orbison’s personal life
Roy Orbison’s life is surrounded by a celebrated music career and tragedies.
Orbison’s first wife was Claudette Frady, whom he married in 1957. The two had three kids: Wesley, Rob Dewayne, and Anthony King Orbison.
In 1964, the couple divorced then remarried after 10 months. However, in 1966, Claudette died after the motorcycle she’s driving crashed into a truck. The two shared a fondness for motorcycles.
Two years after his wife’s death, Orbison is struck with another tragedy. On September 14, 1968, his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee caught fire while Orbison is on a Britain tour. The fire took the life of his two eldest children, Rob Dewayne and Anthony King.
A year later, Orbison married his second wife Barbara Jakobs. The two have children named Roy Orbison Jr. and Alex Orbison. Barbara remained Orbison’s wife until the day of his death.
On December 6, 2011, exactly the same day as his husband’s death, Barbara passed away due to pancreatic cancer. She’s buried in the same cemetery where Orbison is laid to rest.
Nowadays, Orbison Jr. is also in the music industry, working as a guitarist and record producer.
Roy Orbison’s career
Roy Orbison’s music was first released in 1956 as part of the group Teen Kings. The group released a recording of the song ‘Ooby Dooby’. The song went on to enter the Billboard Hot 100, ranking at #59. The group was also able to sell over 200,000 copies.
After writing songs for the Acuff-Rose recording label, Orbison launched his solo career in 1960. He signed with Monument Records, where he popularized the ‘Nashville sound’. From there, Orbison was able to release massive hits like ‘Uptown’, which landed #72 in the Billboard charts.
From 1960 to 1962, Orbison released two albums: Lonely and Blue and Roy Orbison at the Rock House. This is followed by dozens more, with the last one being released a month before his death in 1988.
Moreover, Orbison enjoyed a stellar career, especially in 1964 when he released the song Pretty Woman. The song went on to become #1 in America. He also received acclaim with the song Blue Bayou in 1963, which is also popularized by Linda Ronstadt.
However, Roy’s career started to experience a decline in 1965, which also coincided with the tragedies in his family life.
During the 1970s, Orbison continued to make music, but most of them didn’t fare well in sales. Due to this slump, Orbison’s net worth also declined.
Nevertheless, Roy Orbison had a new lease in his career in 1980. It was after Don McLean recorded his version of Orbison’s ‘Cryin’, which hit the charts in various countries.
While Orbison is almost forgotten in America, he received renewed fame in other countries like Bulgaria.
In 1981, Orbison won his first Grammy for the song ‘That Lovin’ You Feelin’ Again’, which is a duet between him and Emmylou Harris.
Orbison continue to regain his popularity after the rock band Van Halen released their version of Pretty Woman back in 1982. This introduced the younger generation to Orbison’s music.
Roy Orbison also released re-recordings of his music in 1987. In the same year, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Before his death, Orbison also made a few collaborations, including a duet of ‘Cryin’ with k.d. lang. The collaboration won a Grammy shortly after Orbison’s death.
How much was Roy Orbison worth?
With a career spanning three decades, it’s no wonder that Roy Orbison has a massive fortune. Currently, his wealth is estimated to be around $15 million to $20 million. Decades after his death, Orbison continues to make money from royalties and record sales.
His two sons Alex and Roy Jr. took the helm of his estate, the Orbison Enterprises after the death of Barbara in 2011. This means that the two will handle Orbison’s catalog, the family estate, and publishing companies.
Overall, most of Orbison’s money came from his music career, which has numerous big hits to boast. If he didn’t pass away in 1988, Orbison’s wealth would surely be worth more. This is considering the success of his friends Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, and Tom Petty achieved later in life.
Even after 33 years from his death, Orbison’s estate remains sizeable. Much of which should be credited to his sons and second wife’s management.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How old is Roy Orbison when he died?
A: Roy Orbison was just 52 years old when he died. He left behind three sons and his wife Barbara. Orbison passed away due to a heart attack on December 6, 1988. And exactly 23 years later, Barbara passed away on the same day.
Q: When was Roy Orbison’s last concert?
A: Roy Orbison performed his last concert on December 4, 1988, two days before his death. He performed in The Front Row Theater located in Highland Heights, Ohio. After his concert, he was able to fly model airplanes with friend Benny Birchfield.
Q: What killed Roy Orbison?
A: According to findings, Roy Orbison died of an apparent heart attack. However, an American pathologist claimed that the singer was obsessed with the so-called yo-yo dieting. The diet involves losing weight then gaining it again within a specific pattern. The pathologist believed that this diet ultimately triggered Orbison’s heart attack.
Q: Why does Roy Orbison always wear sunglasses?
A: Roy Orbison suffered from eye problems during his entire life. This is the reason why he always wore sunglasses. However, at the start of his career, he preferred tinted sunglasses as a way to shrug off stage fright. Others say that it’s also Orbison’s way of hiding his shyness.
Q: Why doesn’t Roy Orbison have a headstone?
A: Roy Orbison’s grave is unmarked and remains as such up to this day. It’s not clear why, but many fans suspect that it’s due to the family’s wishes. Nevertheless, it’s known that the legendary singer is buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park, where his second wife is also laid to rest.
How much was Roy Orbison worth? According to public data, the singer-songwriter is worth a whopping $20 million. It’s not surprising for someone who had a successful music career for almost three decades. Orbison also has numerous hits and an estate that continues to thrive to this day.
(Featured image sourced from RoyOrbison.com)