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  • We all have those moments in life that are trancendant. Maybe it's the passion of a first great love, or when you took your bike around that corner way too fast but pulled out and flew down the highway. It's the eyes closed time when the good becomes great and the great becomes bliss. You want that moment to last forever but it can't; the veil is pulled back for a glimpse and then perfection slips away. It's a blessing and a heartache, specific to that single moment in your life. It's kind of a big deal.

    August 10, 1988 in Austin, Texas. The city put on a free summer concert down by the river. One of the headliners was Roy Orbison. Of course, Roy was a Texan and would always draw a crowd in the Lone Star State, but at this moment his career was white hot again. Director David Lynch had featured his song, "In Dreams", in his psycho-suburban film, "Blue Velvet". Roy had turned down Lynch's request to use his music, but the director used it anyway, and even though Roy was initially appalled, the use of "In Dreams" as a psychopath's theme song relaunched his career.

    It was a hot Texas night but a good crowd had turned out to see the man from Wink. Grandpas and Grandmas sat in their lawn chairs while young families camped out on blankets and not-quite-sober UT college kids milled about waiting to see if the legend was true, or if Roy was just another has-been looking for a quick paycheck and the door.

    Roy did not disappoint. He was charming and down home, and when he spoke to the crowd he was speaking to old friends and new ones. He was happy to be there and honored that so many people had come out to see him.

    And then there was his voice.

    My father was a 50s rocker so I grew up listening to Elvis, Jerry Lee, Little Richard and Roy, but Roy was the one who stuck with me. His music was different. The other guys were cool cats and they knew it, but Roy was a lonesome loser with a heart born to break. His only solace was a voice that was nothing if not angelic.

    I had a couple beers in my camera bag and wiggled up front for a better view. Roy was dressed all in black with a blue night on him. He had a gospel group of three African American women behind him and they were all dressed in white. White on black, black on white, and all bathed in heavenly blue light.

    I shared a beer with a pretty girl next to me. We rock'n'rolled to "Only The Lonely", "Leah", and "Dream Baby". This beautiful young woman wanted to dance with me while Roy sang to us both. She tugged playfully at my arm, but then Roy began to sing...

    A candy colored clown they call the Sandman
    Tiptoes to my room every night.
    Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper,
    "Go to sleep, everything is all right."

    I pulled away from her and closed my eyes. I swayed back and forth, a little buzzed and totally blissed. As he reached the highest notes of the song, "And just before the dawn, I awake and find you gone..." I pulled out my camera and took his picture.

    Roy Orbison died four months later of a heart attack after having dinner with his mother. He was 52 years old, just one year older than I am now... but in dreams he walks with me.
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