As backup bands go, it was impressive. Elvis Costello had flown in from London. Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt came from their nearby Los Angeles digs. Tom Waits, K.D. Lang and Jennifer Warnes were there. And there was a guitar player who had forsaken T-shirts for the occasion to wear a black silk suit: Bruce Springsteen.
They were all onstage at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles to pay homage to rock pioneer Roy Orbison, composer of such ’60s classics as Only the Lonely and Oh, Pretty Woman. The salute to Orbison, filmed by Cinemax for cablecast in early 1988, attracted an audience that included Leonard Cohen, Rebecca De Mornay, Dennis Quaid and Harry Dean Stanton. They sat transfixed as Orbison, 51, did a duet of Dream Baby with Springsteen and a rousing Candy Man with Costello on harmonica. Obviously touched, Orbison told the Los Angeles Times, “There was a time in the ’70s when I wondered if people still cared about my music at all.” After the session J. D. Souther, a fixture of L.A.’s rock scene, gushed, “I’ve been trying to sing and play like him since I was 12. It’s a thrill, a small way of saying thanks for giving me a big piece of my life.”