It’s not as if “Oh Pretty Woman” needed to be covered. I mean, the song had some legs on its own after the late, great Roy Orbison released it in 1964 – a tune he co-wrote.
But give pop rockers Van Halen credit for not only doing it justice, but turning it into a hit as well nearly 20 years later.
Yeah, I know we’re going back a few years in both regards, but with Van Halen reunited – for better or worse – music fans are pretty much assured there’ll be live versions of the band’s rendition soon enough. Besides, it’s a fun cover.
Orbison, who died in 1988, is kind of a forgotten musical genius. Known for his unique vocals and innovative song construction for the time, he scored with other hits that include “Only the Lonely” and “Crying,” both of which have been covered plenty over the years. But I have to admit I’ve always been drawn to “Oh Pretty Woman.”
Al Green and Connie Francis did versions of the song before Van Halen came along, as did a number of other performers since, including stage versions by Bon Jovi and Green Day, who have a knack for surprising covers during their live performances. (They covered the Who’s long-forgotten mini-mini-opera, “A Quick One While He’s Away,” when I caught them at the Garden a while back.)
But Van Halen’s version, off of their Diver Down album, probably had the most airplay – and the longest running success since Orbison’s original. The band’s dynamic of Eddie Van Halen riffs and trademark backup vocals by Van Halen and then-bassist Michael Anthony gave their version the band’s unique imprint, while paying homage to the original.
So, if you’re not familiar with one or both of these renditions of “Oh Pretty Woman,” give us a shout and share your thoughts on it. If you know these tunes, then just enjoy live versions of them.
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