Barbara Orbison, the widow of Rock and Rock Hall of Famer Roy Orbison, died Wednesday, 23 years to the day of her husband’s death. She was 60.
Orbison was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer April 20 and died at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center after being admitted into the hospital in mid-November.
For more than two decades, Barbara Orbison managed the music empire she built as Roy Orbison’s manager. Most recently, she and their son Roy Kelton Orbison Jr. produced the 2008 Sony Legacy box set Roy Orbison: The Soul of Rock and Roll. The 4-CD package marked the first all-inclusive body of the American legend’s work, from his earliest recordings to his late-’80s comeback with the Traveling Wilburys and posthumously released solo album Mystery Girl, to his last live performance.
Her Nashville-based Still Working Music publishing company was recently awarded BMI’s 2010 Song of the Year award for Taylor Swift’s crossover hit “You Belong With Me.” In 2009, Orbison created a fragrance, Pretty Woman Perfume.
Born Barbara Anne Marie Wellhoner Jakobs in Bielefeld, Germany, Barbara was 17 in 1968 when she met the 32-year-old Roy at a nightclub in Leeds, England. They were married a year later in Henderson, Tenn.
In a tribute to his wife, Orbison once wrote: “I’ve spent my lifetime trying to figure love out. Love ranges from just fascination to something almost spiritual. In the case with my wife, Barbara, it just keeps growing all the time.”
An influential figure in early rock, Orbison had a run of seven top 10 singles from 1960-64, starting with “Only the Lonely” and including the No. 1 hits “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Running Scared.” He also scored such hits as “Crying” and “It’s Over” before his career waned in the mid-’60s. He died of a heart attack at age 52 in 1988. His first wife, Claudette, was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1966.
In addition to Orbison Jr., Barbara Orbison is survived by sons Wesley and Alexander. She will be buried next to her husband at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetary in Los Angeles in a private service. A celebration of life reception will take place at BMI offices in Nashville at a date to be announced.
The family asks that donations can be made to the Roy Orbison Foundation in Los Angeles.