Bobby Darin Biography

Walden Robert Cassotto, 14 May 1936, New York, USA, d. 20 December 1973, Los Angeles, California, USA. Darin’s entry to the music business occurred during the mid-50s following a period playing in New York coffee-houses. His friendship with co-writer/entrepreneur Don Kirshner resulted in his first single, ‘My First Love’. A meeting with Connie Francis’ manager George Scheck led to a prestigious television appearance on the Tommy Dorsey television show and a contract with Decca Records. An unsuccessful attempt at a hit with a cover version of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Rock Island Line’ was followed by a move towards pop novelty with ‘Splish Splash’. Darin’s quirky vocal ensured that his song was a worldwide hit, although he was outsold in Britain by a rival version from comedian Charlie Drake. During this period, Darin also recorded in a band called the Ding Dongs, which prompted a dispute between Atco Records and Brunswick Records, culminating in the creation of a new outfit, the Rinky Dinks, who were credited as the backing artists on his next single, ‘Early In The Morning’.

Neither that, nor its successor, ‘Mighty Mighty’, proved commercially viable, but the intervening Darin solo release, ‘Queen Of The Hop’, sold a million. The period charm of ‘Plain Jane’ presaged one of Darin’s finest moments - the exceptional ‘Dream Lover’. An enticing vocal performance allied to strong production took the song to number 1 in the UK and number 2 in the USA. Already assured of considerable status as a pop artist, Darin dramatically changed direction with his next recording and emerged as a finger-clicking master of the supper club circuit. ‘Mack The Knife’, composed by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill for the celebrated musical The Threepenny Opera, proved a million-seller and effectively raised Darin to new status as a ‘serious singer’ - he even compared himself favourably with Frank Sinatra, in what was a classic example of pop hubris. Darin’s hit treatments of ‘La Mer’ (as ‘Beyond The Sea’), ‘Clementine’, ‘Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey?’ and ‘You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby’ revealed his ability to tackle variety material and transform it to his own ends.

In 1960, Darin adeptly moved into the movies and was highly praised for his roles in Come September (whose star Sandra Dee he later married), Too Late Blues, Pressure Point, If A Man Answers, State Fair, Hell Is For Heroes and Captain Newman, M.D. He returned to form as a pop performer with the lyrically witty ‘Multiplication’ and the equally clever ‘Things’. In the meantime, he had recorded an album of Ray Charles’ songs, including the standard ‘What’d I Say’. During the beat boom era Darin briefly reverted to show tunes such as ‘Baby Face’ and ‘Hello Dolly’, but a further change of style beckoned with the folk rock boom of 1965. Suddenly, Darin was a protest singer, summing up the woes of a generation with the surly ‘We Didn’t Ask To Be Brought Here’. Successful readings of Tim Hardin songs, including ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ and ‘The Lady Came From Baltimore’, and John Sebastian’s ‘Lovin’ You’ and ‘Darling Be Home Soon’ demonstrated his potential as a cover artist of seemingly limitless range. A more contemporary poetic and political direction was evident on the album Born Walden Robert Cassotto, and its serious follow-up Commitment.

As the 60s ended Darin was more actively involved in related business interests, although he still appeared regularly on television. One of the great vocal chameleons of pop music, Darin suffered from a weak heart and after several operations, time finally caught up with the singer at Hollywood’s Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in December 1973. Since his death, Darin’s reputation as a vocalist has continued to grow, and in 1990 he was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The box set As Long As I’m Singing received universally excellent reviews and helped introduce his work to a much younger audience. In June 1999, he was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall Of Fame, having composed/co-composed numbers such as ‘Come September’, ‘Dream Lover’, ‘Early In The Morning’, ‘Eighteen Yellow Roses’, ‘I’ll Be There’, ‘If A Man Answers’, ‘Multiplication’, ‘Queen Of The Hop’, ‘Splish Splash’, ‘This Little Girl’s Gone Rockin’’, and ‘You’re The Reason I’m Living’. A younger audience were given the opportunity to learn about Darin with the Kevin Spacey biopic Beyond The Sea in 2004.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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