Roy Orbison, a balladeer of lost love whose piercing, three-octave voice in songs like "Pretty Woman" and "Cryin' " pioneered early rock 'n' roll, died of a heart attack at age 52.
The singer-songwriter, known for his black pompadour and ever-pres-ent sunglasses, was brought by ambulance to Hendersonville Hospital late Tuesday, said Melanie Lamb, a hospital spokeswoman. He died just before midnight.Orbison achieved fame more than two decades ago with the hits "Only the Lonely," his first million-seller, then "Blue Angel" and "I'm Hurtin'." "Oh, Pretty Woman," in 1964, sold more than 7 million copies and was later a hit for the group Van Halen.
At his death, he was again on the charts, at No. 45, with the single "Handle With Care," a collaboration with artists including Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Tom Petty. Their album, recorded under the name The Traveling Wilburys, is No. 8.
Orbison, who played guitar, gave a concert Sunday in Akron, Ohio, before 2,000 people. On Tuesday, Orbi-son was at the Nashville-area home of country singer Jean Shepard, who said he had been with her husband, "having a great time."
During his heyday in the early 1960s, Orbison had 27 straight rec-ords on the charts. In May 1963, he toured Britain with the Beatles, then a smash in England but still virtually unknown in the United States.
Paul McCartney on Wednesday called Orbison's death "a great shock."
"We toured with Roy in the early days, and he was a really good guy," the former Beatle said in a statement issued in London. "It is particularly sad when he seemed to be enjoying such a comeback recently.
"He was and always will be one of the greats of rock 'n' roll," McCartney said.
In 1977, Elvis Presley introduced him as "the greatest singer in the world." Bruce Springsteen saluted him in his song "Thunder Road."
Orbison once estimated he had sold 30 million records but added, "I don't normally keep tabs."
Some of his other hits include "It's Over" and "Blue Bayou." Last year, he re-recorded his 1963 hit "In Dreams" after the song had been revived in the movie "Blue Velvet."
In a 1986 Associated Press interview, Orbison said the biggest thrill in his career was "just being in the business itself."
As for being called a legend, he said: "I did say facetiously once that being a legend meant being old. But someone pointed out that not all old people are legends. Anyway, it's nice to have had longevity and to have influenced a few people for the good."
On Sept. 30, 1987, Orbison gave a concert at Los Angeles' Cocoanut Grove nightclub, called "Roy Orbi-son and Friends: A Black-and-White Night." The friends were Spring-steen, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, T-Bone Burnett and J.D. Souther, with Bonnie Rait, Jennifer Warnes and K.D. Lang singing backup. The concert was taped for a cable television special.
In 1980, Orbison teamed with Em-mylou Harris on the duet, "That Loving You Feeling Again," and earned a Grammy award. He also was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame of the Nashville Songwriters Association.