Bobby Darin

  • Singer, songwriter and musician born Walden Robert (“Bobby”) Cassotto in East Harlem, New York City, New York, in 1936. Died in 1973 after open heart surgery to repair has damaged heart – he was 37 years old. He suffered from poor health most of his life – he had rheumatic fever as a child that weakened his heart, and then the year that he died, he damaged his heart again after failing to take antibotics prior to a dental visit. During his last few years, he often was given oxygen before and after performances.
  • The origin of his stage name “Darin” is not known. One theory was that it was from a Chinese restaurant that had a neon sign saying “Mandarin” but the first 3 letters were burned out. Another theory was that he randomly chose it from the phone book.
  • His frail health as a boy convinced him that he would die young, and it led him to the ambition to live life to its fullest and to become famous before he was 25. As a teen, he taught himself how to play the guitar, drums and piano. At 19, he met a fledgling music producer, Don Kirshner (later to become legendary in the music business – remember Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert weekly TV show in the 70s?), at a candy store. They agreed to form a partnership, and they wrote songs and jingles together, but nothing came of it. In 1956, he signed with a record label, and 5 singles were released, including his first single, a cover of an old folk song titled Rock Island Line, but none of the recordings were successful.
  • Kirshner got Darin a meeting with the Atco Records label, and he was signed again in 1957. An album, the self titled Bobby Darin, was released in 1958. The first 3 singles did not chart, but the next song that was released, the novelty song Splish Splash, became a major hit, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Darin claimed that he wrote the song in 12 minutes.
  • This began a successful run with Atco. Between 1959 and 1962, he released 11 albums with the label. The first 3 – That’s All, This is Darin, and Darin at the Copa reached the top 10 on the album charts. His most famous song, a cover of Mack The Knife, topped the charts and earned him a Grammy award for Record of the Year. He also won a Grammy for Best New Artist of 1959. Darin was reluctant to release the song – it was composed in 1928 as part of The Threepenny Opera, and he was concerned that it would not appeal to rock and roll fans. Darin’s version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, and it’s ranked #255 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Songs of All Time list – Darin’s jazzy cool rendition is a far cry from the story of the song – about a viscious German gangster.
  • Other top 10 hits during this time were Queen of the Hop, Dream Lover, Beyond the Sea, You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, and Things. 
  • During this time, he set attendance records for his shows at the Copacabana nightclub in New York, and he became a popular attraction in Las Vegas.
  • He continued to release albums throughout the 60s and early 70s – in his career, he released 27 studio albums. His last big hits were in 1963 with You’re The Reason I’m Living (#3) and 18 Yellow Roses (#10), and in 1966 with If I Were A Carpenter (#8).
  • Along with his music career, he acted in TV and films. He performed in 13 films, receiving a Golden Globe award for his role in Come September in 1961. In 1963 he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Captain Newman, M.D. He had his own variety TV show in 1973, running for 13 episodes, and was a popular guest on other variety shows.
  • Bobby Darin was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. At the 2010 Grammy Awards, he was awarded a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. While his music style lost its popularity with the 60s British Invasion, I bet that the nostalgia of the baby boomers would have led to a long career of performances, had his health not failed him. Here is Darin singing Mack The Knife on The Andy Williams Show in 1970.

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