One of my favorite songs from the 1960s is “Running Scared” by the legendary Roy Orbison, who was one of the biggest recording artists from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Written by Orbison and Joe Melson, the powerfully moving ballad was released by Monument Records in March 1961 and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that June. The song was written in the bolero style, starting off calmly then gradually building to a dramatic finish. And, unlike most other songs written both then and now, it contains no chorus.
It opens with just a simple strummed guitar as Orbison plaintively sings to a woman he loves, but fearing she’s still in love with an old flame. With each new verse, layers of lush instrumentation in the form of drums, piano, strings and horns, as well as backing vocals, are added to the mix as both the music and Orbison’s beautiful resonant vocals build to a heart-wrenching climax. By the song’s end, with Orbison jubilant over the woman’s decision to go with him, I’m completely covered in goosebumps. I defy anyone to listen to “Running Scared” and not feel moved. The song lasts barely more than two minutes, but it’s monumental nevertheless. Everything about it is absolute perfection.
Just running scared each place we go
So afraid that he might show
Yeah running scared what would I do
If he came back and wanted you
Just running scared feeling low
Running scared you loved him so
Just running scared afraid to lose
If he came back which one would you choose
Then all at once he was standing there
So sure of himself his head in the air
My heart was breaking which one would it be
You turned around and walked away with me