'Blue Bayou': Linda Ronstadt's Hit Was Written and First Recorded by Roy Orbison

Throughout the course of her career, Linda Ronstadt released many hits, won countless awards, and left her mark on the landscape of American music. Her greatest hits include her solo songs such as "You're No Good" and "When Will I Be Loved," as well as her collaborations with fellow Trio group members Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. But one of the biggest songs of Ronstadt's career came in the form of 1977's "Blue Bayou." Linda Ronstadt took the swinging tune to the top of charts all over the world, and it's now considered her signature song, but she wasn't the first artist to record the track.

"Blue Bayou" was originally written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson and released by Orbison in 1961. The tune was released as a single record alongside "Mean Woman Blues" and later appeared on Orbison's 1963 album, In Dreams. According to American Songwriter, the song was inspired after a road trip from Arkansas to Texas. The song became an international hit for Orbison, landing at No. 1 in Australia and Ireland, No. 3 in the UK, and No. 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

"Blue Bayou" had a good run Roy Orbison, but the song's life was far from over. In 1977, "Blue Bayou" by Linda Ronstadt appeared on her eighth studio album, Simple Dreams, released on Asylum records. Ronstadt once told Circus Magazine that producer J.D. Souther and Glenn Frey of the Eagles were the ones who brought the song to her attention.

"J.D. and Glenn simultaneously suggested [the song] to me sorta like Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum," Ronstadt told the publication (quote via American Songwriter). "We sat up all night talking like mice at incredible speeds, playing and singing half the song 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 R2D2."

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Ronstadt's version was produced by Peter Asher and background vocals were provided by the Eagles' Don Henley. The rendition went on to eclipse Orbison's success with the song, spending four weeks at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also landed at No. 2 on the country music chart, No. 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and charted all over the world. Her version was nominated for the Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and has since been certified Platinum. In addition to Ronstadt's original version, she released a Spanish version of the song called "Lago Azul (Blue Bayou)" in 1978.

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