The lyrics tell how the singer watches a pretty woman walk by. He yearns for her, and wonders if, as beautiful as she is, she might be lonely like he is. At the last minute, she turns back and joins him. The song was covered very closely by the group, Van Halen in 1982. It was covered in ska style in 1986 by the Holy Sisters of the Gaga Dada.
In 1989, the controversial 2 Live Crew recorded a parody of the Orbison song, using the alternate title "Pretty Woman" for their album Clean as They Wanna Be. The Crew sampled the distinctive bass line from the Orbison song, but the romantic lyrics were replaced by talk about a hairy woman and her bald-headed friend and their appeal to the singer.
Orbison's publisher, Acuff-Rose Music Inc sued 2 Live Crew on the basis that the fair use doctrine did not permit reuse of their copyrighted material for profit. The case, Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The lyrics of both songs are reproduced below as they are found in the Supreme Court analysis of the use of parody as fair use in a commercial context.
The Supreme Court decided in 2 Live Crew's favor, greatly expanding the doctrine of fair use and extending its protections to parodies created for profit. It is considered a seminal fair use decision.
The original Orbison song, "Oh Pretty Woman", was also used for a film called Pretty Woman starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts (1990). The film had to license the song from Orbison, but since titles cannot be copyrighted, neither Orbison nor 2 Live Crew had any claim on the title of the film. Oddly enough, observers noted that the film's poster could become involved in another sampling issue. Since Julia Roberts' head is superimposed on an anonymous model's body, the model has the right to demand a release for reproduction along with Roberts, and Richard Gere, who is also shown.
NOTICE: The lyrics reproduced below are as they were published as an appendix to the reasons of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music by the Supreme Court of the United States and are only being posted here for research and study of the concepts of fair use and parody an evolving area of copyright law. It is claimed that such posting is in itself fair use as are various photographs and images found on Wikipedia (an educational resource) and has not been created for any commercial purpose.
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2 "Pretty Woman" as Recorded by 2 Live Crew
3 External Links
"Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison and William Dees
"Pretty Woman" as Recorded by 2 Live Crew