Lively, consistently involving biography of rock 'n' roll's ""Sultan of Sorrow,"" by the author who collaborated with Shelley Winters and Priscilla Presley on their memoirs. In contrast with Alan Clayson's bio of Orbison (Only the Lonely, 1989), Amburn's delves into the personality of the singing idol and manages to invest his life with a tragic dimension. Introverted and painfully aware of his unprepossessing appearance, Orbison was nonetheless driven by ambition to become an international star with all the ""perks""--sprawling mansions, fast cars, glittering jewelry, compliant women. Raised in Depression-era West Texas, the young singer/songwriter gravitated to Nashville in the 1950's. Between 1960 and 1966, he wrote and recorded 22 Top-Forty hits. He married his teen-age sweetheart and eventually fathered three sons. In 1966, his wife was killed in a motorcycle accident, and two years later his two eldest children perished in a fire that swept the family home. Meanwhile, the growing popularity of such groups as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones overshadowed Orbison, but for many years he: struggled on, touring uninterruptedly to steadily dwindling audiences. Even coronary problems and a triple by-pass operation did little to slow him down. He died of heart failure in 1988, age 52. Ironically, at the time of his death, his album The Traveling Wilburys, recorded with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne, was a smash; his Mystery Girl, released posthumously, also soared to the top of the charts. In telling Orbison's story, Amburn captures the excitement of the early days of rock 'n' roll and sketches memorable portraits of such personalities as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon, and Bruce Springsteen. A solid job, then, refreshingly frank, with occasional gossipy riffs. An excellent discography.