Bobby Darin (May 14, 1936 - December 20, 1973) was born Walden Robert Cassotto and was one of the most popular rock and roll
American teen idols of the late 1950s. However, he is widely respected for being a multi-talented, versatile performer, who challenged and
successfully conquered many music genres, including, folk, c&w, pop, and jazz. He was also an accomplished actor. His wish for a legacy
was "to be remembered as a great entertainer, and a human being".
Darin was born to a poor, Italian-American working-class family in The Bronx, New York. His father disappeared a few months before he was
born at the height of the Great Depression. He once remarked that "my crib was a cardboard box, later a dresser drawer". As a result, his
mother had to accept social assistance to take care of her infant son. It was not until he was an adult that he learned that the woman he
thought to be his sister Nina, 19 years his senior, was in fact his mother. The identity of his true father was never publicly or privately
disclosed. His mother refused to reveal that information even to him. He went to his death without knowing the identity of his birth father.
Frail as an infant, perhaps from the poverty that resulted in a lack of proper diet and medical attention, at the age of 8 he was stricken
with multiple bouts of rheumatic fever. The illness left him with a seriously diseased heart, and he would live with the constant knowledge
that his life might be a short one. As a child he overheard a doctor tell his mother he would be lucky to reach the age of 16. Driven by his
poverty and illness, and with an innate talent for music, by the time he was a teenager he could play several musical instruments, including
piano, drums and guitar. He later added harmonica and xylophone.
An outstanding student, Darin graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, and then attended Hunter College on a scholarship. Wanting a
career in the New York theater, he left college to play small nightclubs around the city with a musical combo. In the resort area of the
Catskill Mountains, he was both a bus boy and entertainer.
He chose the name "Bobby Darin" because he had generally been called Bobby as a child (some called him "Waldo", a version of his first name)
and because he had seen a malfunctioning sign at a Chinese restaurant reading "DARIN DUCK" rather than the intended "MANDARIN DUCK" and
thought the "darin" looked good. Later this story was modified, as he said on one occasion that the name was randomly picked out of the
telephone book. Neither story has ever been verified.
Later years and death
In the mid-1960s, Darin headlined at the major casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was the youngest performer to headline in Las Vegas and he
broke ALL attendance records at New York's famed Copacabana. He was instrumental in bringing up new talent, Richard Pryor and Flip Wilson
opened his night club performances when they were virtually unknown. At the Copacabana he "insisted" that a black comic (Nipsey Russell) be
his opening act. This was a very "hard sell" in the era of NYC night club segregation. However considering he had set the attendance mark
(eclipsing Frank Sinatra) his "request" was grudgingly granted, by Jules Podell, the Frank Costello (mob boss) manager of the Copa. His acting
accomplishments include an Academy Award nomination for his outstanding performance in "Captain Newman MD". He and Sandra Dee were divorced in
1967, at which time they had one child, a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin. Darin became politically active, working on the 1968 Presidential election
campaign of Robert Kennedy. Profoundly affected by Kennedy's assassination, he made two protest albums of folk music.
Bobby Darin's late folk/protest period, "Songs From Big Sur" album (compilation released in 2004).
At the beginning of the 1970s he continued to act and to record, including at Motown Records. In January 1971, he underwent his first heart
surgery in an attempt to correct some of the heart damage he had lived with since childhood. In 1972, he was well enough to star in his own
television variety show, on NBC, (The Bobby Darin Amusement Company) which ran for two years, he also remained a top draw at Las Vegas where
he was administered oxygen after his performances. Darin also started Wayne Newton's career. He also owned and operated a highly successful
music publishing company (TM Music) which was responsible for many hit records including "Under The Boardwalk" and "Good Lovin".
A goodwill Ambassador for the American Heart Association, on December 20, 1973, Darin died following surgery to repair a faulty heart valve.
In accordance with his wishes, his body was donated to the UCLA Medical Center for research purposes.
In 1990, fellow 1950s rock and roll pioneer, Paul Anka, made the speech for Darin's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1999
he was voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
He has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1735 Vine Street.
In 2000, actor Kevin Spacey, a lifelong fan of Darin, acquired the film rights to his story. Spacey directed and produced the film, and
played Bobby Darin - as well as co-writing the script. The film is titled after one of Darin's top hits, Beyond The Sea, and was
released at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. In spite of its high production values and strong studio promotion, the movie's
box office results were disappointing. The movie spurred a renewed interest in Darin which has resulted in the release of "never before
heard, or seen" material. His pianist, Roger Kellaway, has recorded two albums of Darin's music as well.
Bobby Darin early
- Splish Splash (Bobby Darin, Murray Kaufman) Recorded in NYC, April 10 US#3 ; UK#18 1958
- Queen of the Hop (Woody Harris) Recorded in NYC, April 10 US#9 ; UK#24 1958
- Plain Jane - US#38 1959
- Dream Lover - US#2;UK#1 1959
- Mack the Knife (Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Marc Blitzstein) Recorded at Fulton on West 40th Street, NYC, December 19 US#1; UK#1 1958 Tom Dowd (eng)
- Beyond The Sea (the French hit song La Mer) - US#6;UK#8 1960
- Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey? - US#19;UK#34 1960
- You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby - US#5;UK#10 1961
- What'd I Say? - US#24 1962
- Things - US#3 UK#2 1962
- You're the Reason I'm Living - US#3 1963
- 18 Yellow Roses - US#10 UK#37 1963
- If I Were a Carpenter - US#8 UK#9 1966
- Mame - 1966
- A Simple Song of Freedom - 1967
- Bobby Darin Sings Doctor Doolittle - 1967
- Bobby Darin Born Walden Robert Cassotto - 1968
- Commitment - 1969
- Heller in Pink Tights (1960)
- Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960)
- Pepe (1960) (Cameo)
- Come September (1961)
- Too Late Blues (1961)
- State Fair (1962)
- Hell Is for Heroes (1962)
- If a Man Answers (1962)
- Pressure Point (1962)
- Captain Newman, M.D. (1963)
- That Funny Feeling (1965)
- Gunfight in Abilene (1967)
- Stranger in the House (1967)
- The Happy Ending (1969)
- Happy Mother's Day, Love George (1973)
- Darin's song "Beyond the Sea" is played in a 2005 commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines.
- "Mack the Knife" was used for an ad campaign by McDonald's several years ago.
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