A Tribute to the Courage of Barbara Orbison

Barbara Orbison died earlier this month – not a name that most of you will recognize, but a real heroine to me.  Barbara Orbison was a new widow with three young sons when she produced an amazingly powerful memorial concert in 1990 for her late husband, legendary musician Roy Orbison. It was her first huge success in a life dedicated to managing her husband’s estate and keeping his legacy alive — and also launching new stars through her Nashville-based music publishing company, Still Working Music. (http://nyti.ms/sbIKXw)

I had just moved to Los Angeles with my late husband Tim Robinson and one of the first big projects at my new job with Braun Ketchum Public Relations was as part of a team coordinating publicity for the concert.  I grew up with Orbison’s haunting, sometimes heartbreaking, operatic rock music and so was not surprised that the evening event brought together so many rock icons who were friends and also influenced by his talent, including Bob Dylan, David Crosby,  Bonnie Raitt, k.d Lang, BB King, John Fogerty, Emmylou Harris, John Lee Hooker and so many more.  On youtube, you can listen to “Only the Lonely” performed by the entire ensemble of super stars and hear Patrick Swayze talk about how Orbison’s friendship  and music changed the actor’s life – songs that he told the audience were about cracking open the shells of our lives and letting other people in (just google “Patrick Swayze at Roy Orbison Concert”).

Because of the work of Barbara Orbison, new generations have been exposed to Orbison’s powerful music and beautiful  lyrics about connecting.  I was saddened that this beautiful woman, like her husband, has left us too soon.  The Orbisons were entrepreneurs and artists who knew how to give back – that memorial concert was also a benefit for the homeless — and the music reminds us to reach out to each other.  What a great message for this season of giving. I’ll never forget the power of that night in Los Angeles and I thank Barbara Orbison for impacting so many lives by sharing her love.


  1. Norma Vavolizza

    Just catching up with this posting, Jan. I loved (and still love) Roy Orbison’s music and am sad that Barbara has died. Thanks for writing this tribute and glad you have a unique memory of her.


  2. Jan

    Norma: So glad you enjoyed it! I was impressed to learn about her on-going dedication to his legacy and professionalism in creating a successful publishing house.


  3. Dona Parseghian

    Last saw the beautiful Barbara at Ed’s party in London, she looked great and was always great fun. She was a real entrepreneur who ensured that Roy’s legacy would live on. He influenced so many, through his own amazing talent and uniqueness. Both taken much too soon, and although very sadly missed, they are now together forever.


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