Blue Bayou

Album: Simple Dreams (1977)
Charted: 35 3
  • "Blue Bayou" was originally recorded by Roy Orbison on his legendary 1963 album In Dreams. While it only scored as high as #29 in the US (despite scoring #1 in Ireland and #10 in Norway), Linda Ronstadt took it to far greater fame as her only gold-selling single and her signature song. Linda Ronstadt has been called "the most successful and certainly the most durable and most gifted woman rock singer of her era" in Andrew Greeley's book God in Popular Culture.
  • Orbison wrote a lot of songs with themes of loneliness and yearning, but in many cases there was a lot more to them. In an interview with the British paper NME, he said: "Take a song like 'Blue Bayou' for instance, that's simply a song about being on the road. And that is really a happy song. It probably sounds very strange to you for me to say that. The fellow's bound and determined to get back to where you sleep all day and the catfish play and the sailing boats and the girls and all that stuff. It's a beautiful thought. Now granted that it is a sad song, a lonely song, but it's a loneliness that precedes happiness. And I'm not sitting here trying to tell you that I don't sing lonely songs or anything like that."
  • Roy Orbison wrote this song with Joe Melson. The pair collaborated on many of Orbison's classics, including "Only The Lonely" and "Crying."
  • Get ready for a Twilight Zone visit! Many people (including some sharp Songfacts fans) have noticed a close similarity between this song and Orbison's "Crying." Compare the point in "Crying" where the lyrics get to "But I saw you last night, you held my hand so tight as you stopped to say hello" with the point in "Blue Bayou" where the lyrics get to "All those fishing boats with their sails afloat if I could only see." Go ahead, play then back to back and judge for yourself.

    Speaking of "Crying," it has something else in common with "Blue Bayou." Both songs sound great in Spanish with female vocals; "Blue Bayou" as "Lago Azul" by Bibi Gaytan on her 1994 album Manzana Verde, and "Crying" as "Llorando" by Rebekah del Rio practically stealing the show in her cameo in the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive. David Lynch originally wanted to use "Crying" in his earlier film Blue Velvet but switched to "In Dreams." And note that this single was on Ronstadt's album, titled Simple Dreams. The circles... the circles are converging...
  • This was in the upper regions of the Hot 100 at the same time as Ronstadt's cover of Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy," which peaked at #5. Ronstadt was the first act since the Beatles to log two Top 5 singles at the same time.
  • Actress/singer Jamila Velazquez sung a Spanish cover ("Lago Azul") on the October 14, 2015 episode of Empire. She told Billboard magazine: "I had actually never heard of 'Blue Bayou' before this, but my family did. They gave me the background and showed me the singers that sang it before me. I loved it; I thought it was the perfect introduction for my character."
  • In 2019, Rolling Stone dug up a rare Roy Orbison version of this song that had been lost to the dust of history. It's believed that it was released as a single in Italy. This version is faster and not as melancholy as the standard release. It was somehow overlooked by the Bear Family when they collected their seven-disc boxed set of Orbison's 1955–1965 Monument output.
  • Simple Dreams was Ronstadt's fourth album with producer Peter Asher, half of the British Invasion duo Peter & Gordon, who had a #1 hit in 1964 with "A World Without Love." Under Asher's guidance, Ronstadt became a bonafide rock star with her breakthrough album, Heart Like A Wheel (1975), and pop-rock makeovers of classic songs like Dee Dee Warwick's "You're No Good," the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved" and – of course – Orbison's "Blue Bayou."

    "I feel really good about 'Blue Bayou' being the single," she told Sounds magazine in 1978. "I used to sing it's so easy to have a hit, all you have to do is recycle it.' Really. And you can quote me on that."
  • Ronstadt also had the help of JD Souther and Glenn Frey when it came to choosing songs for the album, who simultaneously suggested she record the Orbison tune. "We sat up all night talking like mice at incredible speeds, playing and singing half the songs we knew, all of us singing in different keys. I've got a tape of it and it's the fastest tape I've ever heard. It sounds like the R2D2," she said, referencing the chirpy droid from Star Wars.
  • Asher didn't think this would be a hit and tried to convince Ronstadt to reconsider. "If we disagree on something, I really re-examine it and if I still think I'm right, I go ahead," she told Playboy in 1980. "I remember 'Blue Bayou' - Peter was afraid it wouldn't be a hit. He said we should shop around for some insurance. I said, 'OK, get the insurance.' But I knew it was a hit and it was the biggest single I've ever had . Sometimes he is real wild about stuff and I say, 'Oh, no. That will never go.'"
  • In a 2018 Songfacts interview, Asher explained his method of reworking already established songs: "The arrangement is a framework for how the artist does it. So, it's all based on Linda singing the song, so we would always sit with the guitar or piano or something and try out the song. And then I'd start thinking and bounce the ideas off Linda, who has brilliant ideas herself of how to do it."
  • Ronstadt grew to resent the songs that made her famous, to the point where she can't bear to listen to her Greatest Hits collection. "I hated those records," she confessed to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006. "I never thought of myself as a rock singer. I was interested in songs like 'Heart Like a Wheel' and I liked the others for about 15 minutes. But it wasn't until I found Nelson Riddle that I had music I could live with." Ronstadt teamed with the legendary arranger in the 1980s to release three successful albums of traditional pop standards, starting with What's New in 1983.
  • Orbison's version was used on Stranger Things ("The Spy" – 2017), when Nancy and Jonathan have an awkward breakfast at Murray's, and Fringe ("Fracture" – 2009), as well as the movies The Best of Enemies (2019) and The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976).

    Ronstadt's rendition was used on the TV show Medium ("Lucky In Love" – 2006), and the movies American Made (2017) and Man on Fire (2004). She also performed the song on The Muppet Show in 1980.

Comments: 7

  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenI remember seeing a horse in one of the Triple Crown races named "Blew By You."
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaHave just seen a program about Mr. Orbison and heard that Crying was recorded just after his kids were killed in that horrible fire. Don't know about Blue Bayou. Have heard both versions and I have to say I liked Linda's better.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 8th 1963, "Blue Bayou" by Roy Orbison entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #86; and on October 13th, 1963 it peaked at #29 {for 1 week} and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100...
    The week it peaked at #29; the record's A-side, "Mean Woman Blues", was at #7 on the Top 100 and on November 3rd, 1963 it would peaked at #5 {for 2 weeks}...
    Sadly; 'The Big O' passed away at the young age of 52 on December 6th, 1988...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 11th 1977, "Blue Bayou" by Linda Ronstadt peaked at #3 (for 4 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered on chart on September 3rd and spent 23 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #2 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart & in Canada and #3 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    Ms. Ronstadt will celebrate her 68th birthday come next July 15th...
    May God bless and watch over her.
  • Laura from El Paso, TxLinda Ronstadt has all but been forgotten by today's music standards but she has one of the most amazing voices of all time. Just listen how it seems like she is almost crying when she sings this song. Stunning
  • Larry from Coral Springs, FlLinda Ronstadt had such a great voice and she did this number beautifully
  • Joycemorrison from Phglad to know these trivia. i was just a kid when i first heard this but the lyrics and tone--okay, the way linda *sang* it--caught young sentimental me. never forgot it since. when i was much older it was one of the songs i recorded when we fooled around making our own "albums".
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