Bobby Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto; May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, and actor of film and television. He performed in a range of music genres, including pop, rock'n'roll, folk, and country.
He started as a songwriter for Connie Francis, and recorded his own first million-seller "Splish Splash" in 1958. This was followed by "Dream Lover", "Mack the Knife", and "Beyond the Sea", which brought him world fame. In 1962, he won a Golden Globe for his first film Come September, co-starring his first wife, Sandra Dee.
Throughout the 1960s, he became more politically active and worked on Robert Kennedy's Democratic presidential campaign. He was present on the night of June 4/5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at the time of Kennedy's assassination. The same year, he discovered that he had been brought up by his grandparents, not his parents, and that the girl he thought was his sister was actually his mother. These events deeply affected Darin and sent him into a long period of seclusion.
Although he made a successful television comeback, his health was beginning to fail, as he had always expected, following bouts of rheumatic fever in childhood. This knowledge of his vulnerability had always spurred him on to exploit his musical talent while still young. He died at age 37, following a heart operation in Los Angeles.
Contents[edit | edit source]
- 2 Music career
- 3 Acting career
- 4 Later years
- 5 Other interests
- 6 Personal
- 7 Health
- 8 Death
- 9 Legacy
- 10 Discography
- 11 Filmography
- 12 Books
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Early years[edit | edit source]
Born Walden Robert Cassotto in the Bronx borough of New York City, Bobby Darin was reared by his maternal grandparents, whom he thought were his parents. Darin’s birth mother, Vanina Juliette 'Nina' Cassotto (born November 30, 1917), became pregnant with him in the summer of 1935 when she was 17. Presumably because of the scandalous nature of out-of-wedlock pregnancies in that era, Nina and her mother hatched a plan to pass the baby off as her parents’ child and for Nina to be passed off as his older sister. Even until her death in 1983, Nina refused to reveal the identity of her son's biological father to anyone (though it is possible her mother may have been the only other person to know), especially to Darin himself. His maternal grandfather, Saverio Antonio 'Big Sam Curly' Cassotto (born January 26, 1882), was of Italian descent and a wannabe mobster who died in prison from pneumonia a year before Darin's birth. His maternal grandmother, Vivian Fern Walden (also born in 1882), who called herself Polly, was of Colonial English and Danish ancestry and a vaudeville singer. From his birth, Darin always believed Nina to be his older sister and Polly his mother. But in 1968, when he was 32, Darin finally learned the shocking truth from Nina herself that she, not Polly, was his mother. Both the true circumstances of his birth and his relationship with Nina reportedly devastated him.
Darin graduated from the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. He matriculated at Hunter College but soon dropped out in order to play nightclubs around the city with a musical combo.
Music career[edit | edit source]
Darin's career took off with a songwriting partnership, formed in 1955 with fellow Bronx High School of Science student, Don Kirshner, and in 1956 his agent negotiated a contract with Decca Records. The songs recorded at Decca had very little success.
A member of the Brill Building gang of struggling songwriters, Darin was introduced to singer Connie Francis, for whom he helped write several songs. They developed a romantic interest of which her father, who was not fond of Darin, did not approve, and the couple soon split up. Francis has said that not marrying Darin was the biggest mistake of her life.
Darin left Decca to sign with Atlantic Records' Atco subsidiary, where he wrote and arranged music for himself and others. Songs he recorded, such as Harry Warren's "I Found a Million Dollar Baby", were sung in anElvis style, which did not suit his personality.
Guided by Atlantic's star-maker Ahmet Ertegun, Darin's career finally took off in 1958 when he recorded "Splish Splash." He co-wrote the song with radio D.J. Murray Kaufman after a phone call from his mother, Jean, a frustrated songwriter. Her latest song idea was: "Splish, Splash, Take a Bath." Both Kaufman and Darin felt the title was lackluster, but Darin, grasping at straws, said "I could write a song with that title." Within one hour, Darin had written "Splish Splash". The single sold more than a million copies.
In 1959, Darin recorded the self-penned, "Dream Lover", a ballad that became a multi-million seller. With it came financial success and the ability to demand more creative control of his career. So he meant for hisThat's All album to show that he could sing more than rock and roll. His next single, "Mack the Knife", the standard from Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera, was given a vamping jazz-pop interpretation. Although Darin initially was opposed to releasing it as a single, the song went to No. 1 on the charts for nine weeks, sold two million copies, and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1960. Darin was also voted theGrammy Award for Best New Artist that year, and "Mack The Knife" has since been honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
Darin followed "Mack" with "Beyond the Sea," a jazzy English-language version of Charles Trenet's French hit song "La Mer". Both tracks were produced by Atlantic founders Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün with staff producer Jerry Wexler and they featured arrangements by Richard Wess.
In the 1960s, Darin owned and operated—with Terry Melcher, Doris Day's son—a music publishing and production company (TM Music/Trio). He signed Wayne Newton and gave him the song "Danke Schoen" that became Newton's breakout hit. Darin also was a mentor to Roger McGuinn, who worked for him at TM Music and played the 12-string guitar in Darin's nightclub band before forming The Byrds. Additionally, Darin produced Rosey Grier's 1964 LP, Soul City, and Made in the Shade for Jimmy Boyd.
In 1962, Darin began to write and sing country music, with hit songs including "Things" (US #3/UK #2) (1962), "You're the Reason I'm Living" (US #3), and "18 Yellow Roses" (US #10). The latter two were recorded byCapitol Records, which he joined in 1962, before returning to Atlantic four years later. In 1966, he had his final UK hit single, with a version of Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter", which peaked at # 9. He performed the opening and closing songs on the soundtrack of the 1965 Walt Disney film That Darn Cat!. "Things" was sung by Dean Martin in the 1967 TV special Movin' With Nancy, starring Nancy Sinatra.
Bobby Darin is not related to James Darren. This confusion sometimes arises because their names are pronounced similarly, they are the same age, they both started their careers as teen idols with similarly styled songs, both later sang some of the same standard pop/jazz ballads, and they are both associated with Gidget. James Darren starred in "Gidget" films as Gidget's (Sandra Dee) love interest. In real life, Bobby was the love interest: he married Sandra Dee.
Acting career[edit | edit source]
In the fall of 1959, Darin played "Honeyboy Jones" in an early episode of Jackie Cooper's CBS military sitcom/drama, Hennesey set in San Diego, California. In 1960, he appeared twice as himself in NBC's short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier and set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood. In the same year, he was the only actor ever to have been signed to five major Hollywood film studios. He wrote music for several films in which he appeared.
His first major film, Come September (1960), was a teenager-oriented romantic comedy with 18-year old actress Sandra Dee. They first met during the production of the film, fell in love, and got married soon afterwards. Dee gave birth to a son Dodd Mitchell Darin (also known as Morgan Mitchell) the following year, 1961, but the couple divorced in 1967. Dee and Darin made a few films together with moderate success.
In 1962, Darin won the Golden Globe Award for "New Star Of The Year - Actor" for his role in Come September. The following year he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama" (Best actor) in Pressure Point.
In 1963, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a shell-shocked soldier in Captain Newman, M.D.. At the Cannes Film Festival he won the French Film Critics Award for best actor.
Later years[edit | edit source]
"Now my attitude is very simple: I must do what artistically pleases me."
Darin's musical output became more "folksy" as the 1960s progressed, and he became more politically active. In 1966, he had a hit with folksingerTim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," securing a return to the Top 10 after a two-year absence. One song of his, "Artificial Flowers", about child labor, however had a jazzy, Big Band arrangement, which was a sharp contrast to the tragic theme of the song.
Darin traveled with Robert Kennedy and worked on the politician's 1968 presidential campaign. He was with Kennedy the day he traveled to Los Angeles on June 4, 1968, for the California primary, and was at the Ambassador Hotel later that night when Kennedy was assassinated. This event, combined with learning about his true parentage, had a deep effect on Darin, who spent most of the next year living in seclusion in a trailer near Big Sur.
Returning to Los Angeles in 1969, Darin started Direction Records, putting out folk and protest music. He wrote "Simple Song of Freedom" in 1969, which was recorded by Tim Hardin, who sang only three of the song's four verses.
Of his first Direction album, Darin said that, "The purpose of Direction Records is to seek out statement-makers. The album is solely [composed] of compositions designed to reflect my thoughts on the turbulent aspects of modern society." He later signed with Motown.
In 1972, he starred in his own television variety show on NBC, The Bobby Darin Amusement Company, which ran until his death in 1973. Darin married Andrea Yeager (secretary)"  in June 1973, made television guest appearances, and remained a top draw in Las Vegas.
Other interests[edit | edit source]
Darin was an enthusiastic chess player. His television show included an occasional segment in which he would explain a chess move. He arranged with the United States Chess Federation to sponsor agrandmaster tournament, with the largest prize fund in history, but the event was canceled after his death.
Personal[edit | edit source]
Bobby Darin married Sandra Dee in 1960. They met while filming Come September (which was released in 1961). On 16 December 1961, they had a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin (also known as Morgan Mitchell Darin). Dee and Darin officially divorced on 7 March 1967.
Health[edit | edit source]
Darin suffered from poor health his entire life. He was frail as an infant and beginning at age eight was stricken with recurring bouts of rheumatic fever that left him with a seriously weakened heart. 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, where two artificial heart valves were implanted in his heart. He spent most of that year recovering from the surgery.
Towards the end of his career, he often was administered oxygen after his performances.
Death[edit | edit source]
In 1973, after failing to take antibiotics to protect his heart before a dental visit, Darin developed an overwhelming systemic infection (sepsis). This further weakened his body and affected one of his heart valves. On December 11, he checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for another round of open-heart surgery to repair the two artificial heart valves he had received in January 1971. On the evening of December 19, a five-man surgical team worked for over six hours to repair his damaged heart. Shortly after the surgery ended in the early morning hours of December 20, 1973, Darin died in the recovery room without regaining consciousness. He was 37 years old.
There were no funeral arrangements; Darin's last wish in his will was that his body be donated to science for medical research. His remains were transferred to UCLA Medical Center shortly after his death.
Legacy[edit | edit source]
The Righteous Brothers refer to Darin in their song "Rock and Roll Heaven", a tribute to dead musicians which was released months after Darin's death.
In 1998, PBS aired the documentary Bobby Darin: Beyond the Song, produced by Henry Astor and Jason Cilo.
In 1999, he was voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In a 2003 episode of the NBC television series American Dreams, Duncan Sheik portrays Darin and performs "Beyond the Sea" on American Bandstand. Brittany Snow's character, Meg Pryor, is assigned as Darin's liaison during the show.
On Monday, May 14, 2007, Darin was awarded a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars to honor his contribution to making Las Vegas the "Entertainment Capital of the World", and to acknowledge his reputation as one of the greatest entertainers of the twentieth century. The sponsorship fee for his star was raised entirely by fan donations. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
On December 13, 2009, the Recording Academy announced that Darin would receive a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 Grammy Awards ceremony.
Biopic[edit | edit source]
Main article: Beyond the Sea (film)
In 1986, director Barry Levinson intended to direct a film based on Darin's life, and had begun preproduction on the project by early 1997. He abandoned the project, the rights to which were subsequently bought by actor Kevin Spacey, along with Darin's son, Dodd. The resultant biopic, Beyond the Sea, starred Spacey as Darin, with the actor using his own singing voice for the musical numbers. The film covers much of Darin's life and career, including his marriage to Sandra Dee, portrayed by Kate Bosworth.
With the consent of the Darin estate, former Darin manager, Steve Blauner, and archivist, Jimmy Scalia, Beyond the Sea opened at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. Although Dodd Darin, Sandra Dee, and Blauner responded enthusiastically to Spacey's work and the film was strongly promoted by the studio, Beyond the Sea received mixed-to-poor reviews upon wide release, and box office results were disappointing. Some critics[who?] praised Spacey's performance, largely owing to his decision to use his own singing voice. Spacey was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor—Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, but the award that year went to Jamie Foxx for his portrayal of Darin's musical contemporary Ray Charles.
Discography[edit | edit source]
- Shadows (1959)
- Pepe (1960)
- Come September (1961)
- Too Late Blues (1962)
- 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)