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Barbara Orbison Dead: Roy Orbison’s Widow Dies on Anniversary of His Death

Ryan Miller, Getty Images

Barbara Orbison, the widow and manager of the legendary Roy Orbison, died Dec. 6 in Los Angeles on what was the 23rd anniversary of her husband’s death. The head of Nashville-based music publishing company Still Working Music, Barbara was battling pancreatic cancer. She was 60 when she passed away, surrounded by her sons.

Following the tragic death of his wife Claudette in a motorcycle accident in 1966, Orbison met Barbara Anne Marie Wilhonnen Jacobs in Leeds, England in the summer of 1968. Jacobs moved to the U.S. later that year before the two, aged 17 and 32, married on May 25, 1969 in Nashville. The couple built a home in Hendersonville, Tenn., one block from Orbison’s old home which was destroyed by fire, killing two of Orbison’s three children.

“Roy transitioned well from the ’50s into the ’60s,” Barbara told Spinner in an interview earlier this year. “In the ’70s he was basically rebuilding a life. He didn’t want to do anything except be somebody in love, with a little money and lots of fun. By the ’80s, he was ready again.”

AP Photo/Bob Dear, File

Orbison passed away in 1988 from a heart attack at the age of 52 in the midst of a comeback tour with the Traveling Wilburys. Thanks to the attention from the Wilburys and his posthumous release ‘Mystery Girl,’ Barbara continued to release her husband’s material on her Orbison Records label.

In 1998, ‘Combo Concert’ was issued featuring previously unreleased live recordings. The label would also put out an extensive box set as well as an ‘Authorized Bootleg Collection’ featuring shows from 1969 to 1980.

Earlier this year Barbara also oversaw ‘The Monument Singles Collection,’ a two-CD/one-DVD compilation featuring the ‘Only the Lonely’ singer’s biggest hits and B-sides. “I told them, I can’t do another ‘Greatest Hits,’” she told Spinner. “I’m here to do one thing — to pass on the history of this incredible man and artist called Roy Orbison.”

Barbara is survived by sons Wesley, Roy Kelton Jr. and Alexander. She will be buried next to her husband at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles while a Celebration of Life ceremony is planned for Nashville.

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