Shades. Make. The King.
Songwriter/musician Solomon King, who notes that celebrated Roy Orbison became known as the “King of Hearts,” also praises the legend’s first-person narratives in his songs. Always busy and upbeat King, a former Grammy nominee in contemporary blues, observes: “Roy would create this persona of a suffering male character who experiences very poignant emotions about isolation, loneliness and pain, and then the tears come. He would emote and sing on such an intense level, a level that was not the norm for men of his time, in the early 1960s.”
Indeed, it was like, there’s no crying in rock and roll. Well, until the King of Hearts turned up.
As a result, it’s not surprising that Solomon King has chosen Orbison’s “Crying” as one of the upcoming videos he’s doing of classic covers. King got into character by wearing a “fright wig” to play Phil Spector in a feature movie (“The Phil Spector Incident”). Likewise, he needed to get into character to perform Orbison’s “Crying.”
So, he and his director (Jay Morran), went to a LensCrafters store to find Roy’s signature shades. King recalls: “I showed the salesperson a photo of Roy in his classic dark shades, asking, ‘Do you have these?’ She replied, ‘Sure, Wayfarers.’ I then asked, ‘Do you know who this is?’ This young person said, ‘No.’ Fine, I added, ‘Well, I’m a musician, and I need this look.’ She instantly asked, ‘For what, upload to social media?’ She didn’t ask whether it was for a record cover, or a gig or tour, or a radio interview — all the things one actually needs to get to, well, The Grammys,” King quips.
Indeed, Roy Orbison once explained his image: “I never sat down with anyone and said, ‘Let’s design an image.’ I started using sunglasses in Alabama. I was going to do a show with Patsy Cline and Bobby Vee, and I left my clear glasses on the plane. I only had the sunshades, and I was quite embarrassed to go onstage with them, but I did it. Then I took the shades with me to England when I opened for the Beatles…It was an opening night to end all opening nights. I walked onstage with my sunglasses on, and all over Europe we were an instant success. Big time. I probably also wore something black that night, and that’s how the black outfits and dark sunglasses stuck.”
Most importantly, King is compiling a collection of other cool videos of classic songs from the 60s and 70s for exposure to a new generation. He continues:
“Anyway, I found it noteworthy that in this world where millions hang on every image or word from the Kardashians or Taylor Swift on their Instagram pages, this Gen Z salesperson immediately thought of social media, And, she also didn’t know who Roy Orbison was. I mean, he’s the man dressed stylishly all in black, with jet black hair, holding a black guitar and wearing those signature dark shades. And he appeared more like a shadow than your normal 60s or 70s rocker. And, consequently, he was the man who inspired singers to be different and to find their own inner voice. He’s been an inspiration for everyone from me, Solomon King, to Bruce Springsteen who once observed, ‘Everyone knows no one sings like Roy Orbison.’”
Certainly, not everyone like the salesperson knows Orbison’s music. Yet. And, that’s the reason, Solomon King bought those stylish Wavfarers, got into character and shot the video of him covering Orbison. He adds, “For me it’s about discovery. My concept with doing these fun videos of cover tunes is to bring them to a new generation. And if they see my cover on social media, maybe they’d also see the original Roy Orbison and say, ‘Hey, let me listen to the legend’s original song.’ It could be like discovering Mozart for the first time. An exciting discovery process.”
Moreover, King suggests that the choices of covers he’s choosing reflects “who I am as a musician, and who has influenced me.” These cover videos will initially include: David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” (1974) and The Rascals’ “It’s a Beautiful Morning” (1968). Upcoming after that will be Roy Orbison’s “Crying” (1961), Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” (1973) and, a very timely version of Ray Charles’ “Busted” (1963 and written by Harlan Howard).
And, while Solomon King gets ready to master his brand new record of original songs, he also has plans to maybe take the classics of 60s and 70s on the road to Casinos and other venues which are looking to re-open.