Only The Lonely (Know The Way I Feel)

Album: 16 Biggest Hits (1960)
Charted: 1 2


  • While this is one of the sadder songs ever recorded, projecting the misery onto Orbison would be a mistake. In 1980, he explained to the NME that many of his most painful songs were written in happier times. Said Roy: "I've always been very content when I wrote all those songs. By this I'm saying that a lot of people think you have to live through something before you can write it, and that's true in some cases, but I remember the times that I was unhappy or discontent, and I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't communicate, and I certainly couldn't write a song, no way. All the songs I wrote that were successful were written when I was in a contented state of mind."
  • Roy Orbison wrote this with his songwriting partner Joe Melson, but intended to offer the song to either Elvis Presley or the Everly Brothers (who had already recorded Orbison's song "Claudette"). The Everly Brothers persuaded Orbison that he should cut it himself.
  • The song was subtitled "Know The Way I Feel" to avoid confusion with another song called "Only The Lonely," which Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen had written for Frank Sinatra in 1958.
  • This quickly became Orbison's biggest hit and one of the songs that exemplified his poignant lyrics and soulful vocal delivery as he sings about what it's like to be lonely.
  • Orbison recorded this song in RCA Studio B with the elite session musicians known as "The Nashville A Team." Bob Moore, who was the bass player, did the arrangement.

    Orbison's first recordings were at Sun Studios in Memphis, where under Sam Phillips he had a rockabilly sound similar to fellow Sun artists Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. His Nashville songs for Monument Records were far more complex, with string sections, backup singers and liberal use of studio effects, all crammed into about two and half minutes - this one runs just 2:24.
  • When Orbison was in The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne, he wrote a sequel to this song called "Lonely No More."
  • This was one of the first songs Roy Orbison and Joe Melson wrote together. The inspiration for the lyrics came from Melson, who as a teenager fell in love with a girl who left him brokenhearted. Melson says that she took off in a Cadillac and the words to this song came to him naturally.

    Melson also says that the song was his proudest moment as a songwriter, as it was his first hit with Orbison. The pair would write many more hits for Orbison, including "Running Scared," "Crying" and "Blue Bayou."
  • After Orbison's death, Royal Crown Cola tried to use this song as part of a campaign to fight homelessness. His widow, Barbara Orbison, liked the idea but didn't own the publishing rights, so the deal fell through. She still wanted to aid the homeless in Roy's name, so she organized a tribute concert with Royal Crown signed on as a sponsor. Bob Dylan signed on and got The Byrds (or at least three of them: David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, and Chris Hillman) to reunite for the show, which was held at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles on February 24, 1990 and later broadcast as a Showtime special. B.B. King, John Fogerty, k.d. lang, Booker T. Jones, Michael McDonald, Emmylou Harris and Chris Isaak also performed. The 4-hour concert ended with many of the performers joining Dylan and The Byrds on stage for "Only The Lonely."

Comments: 4

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1960 {July 25th} "Only The Lonely"* by Roy Orbison peaked at #2 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Top 100 chart, for the week it was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "I'm Sorry" by Brenda Lee...
    Three months later on October 20th, 1960, "Only The Lonely" peaked at #1 {for 2 weeks} on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...
    Between 1956 and 1989 the Vernon, Texas native had thirty-one records on the Top 100 chart, nine made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, "Running Scared" for 1 week in 1961 and "Oh, Pretty Woman" for 3 weeks in 1964...
    One of his thirty-one charted records was a duet with Emmylou Harris, "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again", it peaked at #55 in 1980...
    Plus two of his charted records were as a member of the supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys...
    Roy Kelton Orbison passed away at the young age of 52 on December 6th, 1988 {heart disease}...
    May he R.I.P.
    * "Only The Lonely" was Roy Orbison's first of two of his records to peak at #2, his other #2 record was "Crying", for one week in October of 1961...
    And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the remainder of the Billboard's Top 10 for July 25th, 1960:
    At #3. "Alley-Oop" by the Hollywood Argyles
    #4. "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" by Connie Francis
    #5. "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" by Brian Hyland
    #6. "Mule Skinner Blues" by The Fendermen
    #7. "Image of A Girl" by the Safaris
    #8. "Tell Laura I Love Her" by Ray Peterson
    #9. "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" by Hank Locklin
    #10. "That's All You Gotta Do" by Brenda Lee
  • Tai from Sonoma CaI’ve looked for years but have yet to find the names of the DoWop Session Singers who should go down in history for the opening Dum Dum Dummy Do Wah...they are unsung heroes of song.
  • German from Costa Mesa, CaWhat a voice... what a VOICE! I agree with Linc from TX, one of the most underrated artist in music history. His vocal range was ridiculous. All his songs remind me of my mother has always said that his voice was far superior to Elvis' and the more I hear his music the more I agree with her. "...I cry...only the lonely."
  • Linc from Beaumont, TxOne of the most over looked music greats - really
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Psychedelic Lyrics

Psychedelic LyricsMusic Quiz

Whoa man! Do you know which band came up with these cosmic lyrics?

Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Damn Yankees

Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Damn YankeesSongwriter Interviews

Revisit the awesome glory of Night Ranger and Damn Yankees: cheesily-acted videos, catchy guitar licks, long hair, and lyrics that are just plain relatable.

Frankie Valli

Frankie ValliSong Writing

An interview with Frankie Valli, who talks about why his songs - both solo and with The Four Seasons - have endured, and reflects on his time as Rusty Millio on The Sopranos.

Alan Merrill of The Arrows

Alan Merrill of The ArrowsSongwriter Interviews

In her days with The Runaways, Joan Jett saw The Arrows perform "I Love Rock And Roll," which Alan Merrill co-wrote - that story and much more from this glam rock pioneer.

The Untold Story Of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine

The Untold Story Of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary MachineSong Writing

Fiona's highly-anticipated third album almost didn't make it. Here's how it finally came together after two years and a leak.

Amy Grant

Amy GrantSongwriter Interviews

The top Contemporary Christian artist of all time on song inspirations and what she learned from Johnny Carson.