The following is an excerpt of an interview onMilwaukee.com did with John Kruth, author of Rhapsody in Black: The Life and Music of Roy Orbison (Backbeat Books). Visit onMilwaukee.com to read the full interview.
Let’s talk some more about Orbison. Had anyone written a book about him before? If not, that seems almost hard to believe. If so, what did you aim to do differently?
This is the first time I’ve written a book about someone that has already had a book, in this case two, previously written about them. I don’t want to be a jerk but the first one I read was so poorly written that it actually inspired me to take up the mantle and set things right for the man. The second book, “Dark Star,” by Ellis Amburn is quite good. He’s a fine historian who wrote for Newsweek. But I felt he didn’t delve into the music the way I would have liked, which left an opening for me. Being a songwriter and a singer – and I say that in all humility in the same breath as mentioning Roy Orbison, I feel I have an unusual gift/ability to get to the core of what it’s all about, compared to someone who hasn’t had the experience of performing, arranging and living the music.
Did you learn anything that came as a surprise to you?
Surprises? How great and how lame some of the MGM tracks were. Check out the album “Hank Williams The Roy Orbison Way.” I’d never heard it before, and most of the musicians I interviewed didn’t even recall recording it. It’s wild. It sounds like a Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra production. They took Hank to Vegas with that one. But the story of his life fascinated me, the way he was able to overcome incredible tragedies and managed to continue creating in spite of the devastating cards that fate dealt him. Ultimately, Roy was a sonic alchemist who turned pain into beauty.
How much time did you spend writing the book?
Keep reading this interview on onMilwaukee.com!
Orbison’s singing has inspired everyone who has heard it, from Springsteen to k. d. lang, and laid the very foundation for goth. While fascinating from a pop culture standpoint, it is Orbison’s life’s journey that makes a great story that has yet to be told to its fullest. Rhapsody in Black doesn’t shy away from or trivialize the personal pain, alienation, and tragic events that shaped Orbison’s singular personality and music. Roy Orbison wasn’t merely a singer but a sonic alchemist who, in the end, transformed unfathomable human misery into transcendent melody and platinum records. Rhapsody in Black: The Life and Music of Roy Orbison contains new interviews with over 20 people who worked closely with Orbison throughout his life.