Bruce Springsteen Says “No One” Can Sing Like This Emotional Artist


Bruce Springsteen, like countless other artists, drew inspiration from a variety of talented sources, some easily within his usual wheelhouse like Bob Dylan and Phil Spector, while others he sees as a league all unto their own. For Springsteen, he has the goal of sounding like Roy Orbison, but it is one he feels no one can attain.

The late Roy Orbison, nicknamed the Big O, was known for the emotional vulnerability he injected into every word of his songs. The remarkable effect of his music was enhanced by his practice of staying completely still and wearing a signature pair of dark sunglasses. But Springsteen has so much more that he praises beyond the visual presentation; he admires what he views as Orbison’s inimitable sound.


Bruce Springsteen sings praises to Roy Orbison

Bruce Springsteen admired Roy Orbison / (c) PBS/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

As the father of heartland rock, Springsteen has a proven mastery over lyric writing, articulating in written form real stories grounded in hardship and endurance. But in Springsteen’s view, it was Orbison who had the one voice that could verbally express those nuanced concepts in song.


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Springsteen would be the one to induct Orbison into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and on this grand stage, he offered him high praise. “In 1975, we went into the studio to make Born to Run,” he shared during his speech. “I wanted to have words like Bob Dylan and sounded like Phil Spector, but most of all, I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison. And everybody knows, no one can sing like Roy Orbison.”

Springsteen feels Orbison backed his unique vocal talents with a style that went against the grain

Springsteen believes no one else can sing like Orbison did / ©RADiUS-TWC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Considering Orbison’s unique footprint in the music industry, Springsteen emphasized that he was not just a strong voice but also a creative musician.

“But for me, Roy’s ballads were always best when you were alone and in the dark,” Springsteen mused, adding, “Roy scrapped the idea that you needed verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus to have a hit. His arrangements were complex and operatic, they had rhythm and movement, and they addressed the underside of pop romance. They were scary. His voice was unearthly.”

Roy Orbison, circa mid-1960s / Everett Collection

Springsteen’s ways of paying tribute to Orbison even bleed into his own music, even though Springsteen asserts no one can capture the power of his voice. However, listeners can still hear a line about “Roy Orbison singing for the lonely having a powerful effect on the song’s story.

In his career, started in the ’50s and continued until Orbison’s death, he would form a supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys, with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne. As a songwriter, Orbison wrote or co-wrote almost all of his tracks that ended up as Top 10 hits, including “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Running Scared,” “In Dreams,” and “Crying.” In addition to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Orobison was also inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Roy Orbison, 1977 / Everett Collection

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