This week (December 20th, 1973) marks the 39th anniversary of the death of legendary entertainer Bobby Darin, who died at the age of 37 following open-heart surgery. Darin, one of the primary links between the Big Band era and rock and roll, was an accomplished actor, songwriter and dancer, in addition to scoring 22 Top 40 hits, including "Splish Splash," "Beyond The Sea," "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby," "If I Were A Carpenter," "Dream Lover" -- and his only Number One hit, "Mack The Knife."
Darin was born Walden Robert Cassotto on May 14th, 1936, in the Bronx, New York City, with a rheumatic heart that would plague him throughout his life. He later went on to become a goodwill ambassador for the American Heart Association
For most of his life, Darin was led to believe that his birth mother was in fact his older sister. He never knew the identity of his birth father.
In 1957, Darin was signed to Atco Records, the non-R&B subsidiary of the Atlantic label, and his records had little success until the label's president Ahmet Ertegun produced "Splish, Splash," a song Darin had written in only 12 minutes. Ertegun's touch proved to be just what was needed to catalyze Darin's talents, and in 1958 "Splish, Splash" went to Number Three on the charts, selling more than 100,000 copies in less than one month. Three more gold records followed: "Queen Of The Hop" in 1958; "Dream Lover," which Darin wrote in 1959; and "Mack The Knife," also in 1959. That year Darin earned two Grammy Awards; "Mack The Knife" won for Record Of The Year and with Darin being named Best New Artist.
In 1960, Darin married actress Sandra Dee, and the couple had one child, Dodd Mitchell Darin. They divorced in 1967.
Darin once said, "My goal is to be remembered as a human being and as a great performer," and his extensive musical legacy speaks for itself. In 2001, Darin's "Mack The Knife" was recognized as one of the top "Songs Of The Century" in a poll conducted by the Recording Industry Association Of America and the National Endowment For The Arts. The poll ranked the top 365 songs of the last 100 years, and "Mack The Knife" came in at Number 15.
Darin played a crucial role in the musical development of Roger McGuinn, who prior to co-founding the Byrds, served an apprenticeship as Darin's live guitarist.
In 1968, Darin was a key supporter of Bobby Kennedy during his bid for the presidency, and was traveling with the senator the night he was fatally wounded at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Several years ago Dick Clark spoke about Darin, and said that he was one of the most remarkable entertainers he ever knew: "Bobby Darin was probably one of the most memorable people I've known in my life. He became a very close personally friend and I speak from a highly prejudiced point of view -- he was just the best."
David Cassidy, who performed as Darin in his The Rat Pack Is Back! musical, says that of all the live acts he's seen over the years, nothing compares to catching Bobby Darin perform in concert: "I actually saw Bobby Darin be 'Bob Darin' at the Troubadour, with my step-mother Shirley Jones. There was an interesting deal that went on his career after he did all the 'Mack The Knife' and 'Beyond The Sea.' He became a very politically active guy -- I respected that a lot at the time -- and still do. He was an artist, and one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- entertainer I ever saw."
Bobby Darin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 by Paul Anka. In 1999, Darin was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 2004 Kevin Spacey starred and directed the Darin biopic Beyond The Sea.
In 2005, an extended, newly remastered version of Darin's album Live At The Desert Inn, was re-released on CD with several bonus tracks. The concert was recorded in Las Vegas on February 6th, 1971. Live At The Desert Inn was originally intended to be Darin's debut for the Motown label, which eventually released it posthumously in 1987.
In 2007, Darin was awarded a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars and inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.