Bobby Darin Biography
Bobby Darin (May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) (born Walden Robert Cassotto) was one of the most popular American big band performers and rock and roll teen idols of the late 1950s. He is widely respected for being a multi-talented, versatile performer, who challenged and successfully conquered many music genres, including, folk, country, pop, and jazz.
He was also an accomplished, award-winning actor, and a music business entrepreneur. His wish for a legacy was "to be remembered as a great entertainer, and a human being." Among his many contributions, he was a "Goodwill Ambassador" for the American Heart Association because of his lifelong heart disease.
Darin was born to a poor working-class family in The Bronx, New York. His Italian American 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, a Mayflower descendant (half Italian, half English), had to accept public 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 and the woman he thought to be his mother was in fact his grandmother. 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 had 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, with a genius-level IQ, 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.
As was common with ethnic minorities at the time, he changed his Italian name to one that sounded more "American". He allegedly 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.
In addition to music, Darin turned his attention to motion pictures. He wrote music for several films and acted in them as well. In his first major film, Come September, a romantic comedy designed to capitalize on his popularity with the teenage and young-adult audience, he met and co-starred with 16-year-old actress Sandra Dee. They fell in love, and, despite their age difference, were married in 1960. They had one son, Dodd Mitchell Darin, in 1961. They were divorced in 1967.
Asking to be taken seriously, he took on more meaningful movie roles, and in 1962 he won the Golden Globe Award for "Most Promising Male Newcomer", for his role 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 in France, where his records—in particular "Beyond the Sea"—brought him a wide following, he won the French Film Critics Award for Best Actor.
A major disappointment in his acting career came when he lost the lead role of Tony in West Side Story to Richard Beymer. Several leading Hollywood men like Anthony Perkins, Warren Beatty, and Elvis Presley were also major contenders for the role.
On December 20, 1973, Darin died following surgery to repair a faulty heart valve. The mechanical heart valve had clotted (a known risk of prosthetic heart valves) when Darin decided to stop taking his anticoagulant drug warfarin that is routinely used to prevent such problems. Darin's heart disease required him to both take the drug on a daily basis and to undergo frequent blood tests to determine a satisfactory level of anticoagulation. Unfortunately, Darin reportedly neglected to take antibiotics as a precaution before undergoing dental work; as a result, bacteria seeped into his bloodstream, and further infected his already fragile heart. In accordance with his wishes, his body was donated to the UCLA Medical Center for research purposes.
Shortly before his death he divorced his second wife Andrea. Those close to him have said that this was an attempt to distance her from the pain of his death. Even though he did talk to Sandra Dee a short while before his death, the call was mainly to talk to his son Dodd. Contrary to the "Beyond the Sea" biopic Sandra was not by his side, or had even visited him, in the final hospital stay, at Bobby's request.
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 named 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, strong studio promotion, and critical acclaim, box office results were disappointing. However, 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.