Bobby Darin
Darin in 1959
Walden Robert Cassotto

(1936-05-14)May 14, 1936
DiedDecember 20, 1973(1973-12-20) (aged 37)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
Years active1956–1973
  • (m. 1960; div. 1967)
  • Andrea Yeager
    (m. 1973; div. 1973)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
  • drums
  • harmonica
  • xylophone
DiscographyBobby Darin discography

Bobby Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto; May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973)[1] was an American musician, songwriter, and actor. He performed jazz, pop, rock and roll, folk, swing, and country music.

Darin started his career as a songwriter for Connie Francis. In 1958, Darin co-wrote and recorded his first million-selling single, "Splish Splash", which was followed by Darin's own song "Dream Lover", then his covers of "Mack the Knife" and "Beyond the Sea", which brought him worldwide fame. In 1962, Darin won a Golden Globe Award for his first film, Come September, co-starring his first wife, actress Sandra Dee.

During the 1960s, Darin became more politically active and worked on Robert F. Kennedy's Democratic presidential campaign. He was present at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at the time of Robert Kennedy's assassination in June 1968. That same year, Darin discovered the woman who had raised him was his grandmother, not his mother as he thought, and learned that the woman he thought was his sister was actually his mother. Those events deeply affected Darin and sent him into a long period of seclusion.[2]

Although Darin made a successful comeback (in television) in the early 1970s, his health was beginning to fail due to a weak heart. The knowledge of Darin's vulnerability had always spurred him on to use his musical talent while still young. Darin died in 1973 at the age of 37 in a hospital recovery room after having open heart surgery in Los Angeles.[3][4][5][6]

Early life

Darin was born Walden Robert Cassotto in East Harlem, New York City, on May 14, 1936, to Vanina Juliette "Nina" Cassotto (born November 30, 1917).[7] Because his mother was only 17 at the time of his birth, Darin's maternal grandmother became his mother and Nina his older sister.[2]

Darin's maternal grandmother, Vivian "Polly" Fern Walden, (born in 1891) was of English, Danish and Norwegian ancestry[8][9][10] and had been a vaudeville singer before Darin's birth.[11] His maternal grandfather, Saverio Antonio "Big Sam Curly" Cassotto (born January 26, 1882), was of Italian descent. He had been a made man and "soldier" in the Genovese Crime Family as well as a close associate of Frank Costello. Sam served as a witness at Costello's 1914 wedding, though the relationship soured after he accused Costello of withholding money that was meant for Cassotto's family.[citation needed] Sam Cassotto died from pneumonia in 1935 while in prison, a year before Darin's birth.

In 1968, when Darin was 32 and considering entering politics, Nina told him the truth, reportedly devastating Darin.[12] She refused to reveal the identity of his biological father and took that secret to her grave when she died in 1983. The man's identity remained unknown until 2020. In April of 2020, Emilio "Milton" Lepore (1911 or '12 -1965) was traced, through familial DNA, as being Darin's biological father. [13]

Darin moved to the Bronx early in his life (with a rented summer home in Staten Island)[14] and graduated from the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. In later years, Darin attributed his arrogance to his experiences there, where Darin was surrounded by brighter students who teased him.[15] Darin then enrolled at Hunter College and soon gravitated to the drama department. After only two semesters, he dropped out to pursue an acting career.[16] Darin was an ambitious young adult and aspired to be an actor, go on Broadway, and become a recording artist.[17]

By the time he was a teenager, Darin could play several instruments, including piano, drums, and guitar. He later added harmonica and xylophone.[18] Darin took his stage name, Bobby Darin, when he began to record.[19] One version of how Darin got the name is that the first three letters on a Mandarin Chinese restaurant were burned out.[20][21] According to another version, he adapted it from the first name of actor Darren McGavin, TV's Mike Hammer. Darin said: "My legal name will remain Cassotto. Cassotto was my mother's name, and it will be my children's name."[19]

Music career


Darin's career took off with a songwriting partnership, formed in 1955 with Don Kirshner, whom he met at a candy store in Washington Heights.[1] They wrote jingles and songs, beginning with "Bubblegum Pop".[22] In 1956, Darin's agent negotiated a contract with Decca Records.[1] The songs recorded at Decca had minimal commercial success.[1]

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, but her father was not fond of Darin and did not approve of the relationship, and the couple split up. At one point, Darin wanted to elope immediately; Francis has said that not marrying Darin was the biggest mistake of her life.[23]

Darin left Decca to sign with Atlantic Records' Atco subsidiary, where he wrote and arranged music for himself and others. Songs Darin recorded, such as Harry Warren's "I Found a Million Dollar Baby", were sung in an Elvis style, which did not suit Darin's personality.[citation needed]

Guided by Atlantic's star-maker Ahmet Ertegun, Darin's career finally took off in 1958 when he recorded "Splish Splash".[1] Darin co-wrote the song with radio D.J. Murray Kaufman after a phone call from Kaufman's 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, with few options, said: "I could write a song with that title." Within an hour, Darin had written "Splish Splash".[24] The single, Darin's first successful foray into the rock and roll genre, sold more than a million copies.[25][26] His partnership with Kirshner, who was not involved in the writing of that song, ended at that time.[22] Darin made another recording in 1958 for Brunswick Records with a band called The Ding Dongs.[1] With the success of "Splish Splash" the single was re-released by Atco Records as "Early in the Morning" with the band renamed as The Rinky Dinks.[1] It charted, and made it to number 24 in the United States.[27][28]

In 1959, Darin recorded the self-penned "Dream Lover", a ballad that became a multi-million seller.[1] With it came financial success and the ability to demand more creative control of his career; Darin meant for his That's All album to show that he could sing more than rock and roll as a result.[29] Darin's next single, "Mack the Knife", the standard from Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera, was given a vamping jazz-pop interpretation.[1] Although Darin was initially opposed to releasing it as a single,[29] the song went to No. 1 on the chart for nine weeks, sold two million copies, and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1960. He was also voted the Grammy 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".[1] Both tracks were produced by Atlantic founders Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun with staff producer Jerry Wexler and they featured arrangements by Richard Wess.

The late-1950s success included Darin setting the all-time attendance record at the Copacabana nightclub in Manhattan and headlining at the major casinos in Las Vegas.


Darin's 1960 recording of "Artificial Flowers", a song by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock from the Broadway musical Tenderloin about the death of a child laborer, featured a jazzy, big band arrangement by Richard Behrke, that was in sharp contrast to its tragic lyrics.[30]

In the 1960s, Darin owned and operated, with Doris Day's son Terry Melcher, a music publishing and production company (TM Music/Trio). Darin signed Wayne Newton and gave him the song "Danke Schoen", which became Newton's breakout hit.[citation needed] 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. Darin also produced Rosey Grier's 1964 LP Soul City, and Made in the Shade for Jimmy Boyd.[citation needed]

In 1962, Darin began to write and sing country music, with hit songs including "Things" (US No. 3/UK No. 2) (1962), "You're the Reason I'm Living" (US No. 3), and "18 Yellow Roses" (US No. 10). The latter two were recorded by Capitol Records, which he joined in 1962, before returning to Atlantic three years later.[31] Darin left Capitol in 1964.[32] Two years later, he had his final UK hit single, with a version of Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter", which peaked at No. 9 (No. 8 in the US). Darin 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.[33]

Acting career

"Deadeye" and Darin in a 1965 Red Skelton Show skit

In the fall of 1959, Darin played "Honeyboy Jones" in an early episode of Jackie Cooper's CBS military sitcom/drama Hennesey. That same year, he became the only actor ever to have been signed to five major Hollywood film studios.[citation needed] Darin wrote music for several films in which he appeared.

Darin's first major film, Come September (1961), was a teenager-oriented romantic comedy with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida and featuring 18-year-old actress Sandra Dee.[1] They met during the production of the film and they soon married on December 1, 1960.[1] Dee gave birth to a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin (also known[clarification needed] as Morgan Mitchell) on December 16, 1961.[34] Dee and Darin made a few films together with moderate success, such as If a Man Answers (1962), and That Funny Feeling (1965).[35]

In 1961, Darin starred as a struggling jazz musician in Too Late Blues, John Cassavetes' first film for a major Hollywood studio.[36] Writing in 2012, Los Angeles Times critic Dennis Lim observed that Darin was "a surprise in his first nonsinging role, willing to appear both arrogant and weak".[37] In 1962, Darin won the Golden Globe Award for "New Star of the Year – Actor" for his role in Come September.[38] The following year he was nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for Pressure Point.

In 1963, Darin was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a shell-shocked soldier in Captain Newman, M.D. Throughout his acting career, Darin appeared alongside a series of Hollywood leading men Sidney Poitier, Steve McQueen, and Gregory Peck.[17]

In October 1964, Darin appeared as a wounded ex-convict who is befriended by an orphan girl in "The John Gillman Story" episode of NBC's Wagon Train western television series.

Later years


"Now my attitude is very simple: I must do what artistically pleases me."

Bobby Darin, 1967 Pop Chronicles interview[29]

Darin became more politically active as the 1960s progressed, and his musical output became more "folksy". In 1966, Darin had a hit with folksinger Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter",[29] securing a return to the Top 10 after a two-year absence.[1]

Darin traveled with Robert F. Kennedy and worked on the politician's 1968 presidential campaign. He was with Kennedy on June 4, 1968, the day he traveled to Los Angeles for the California primary, and Darin was also at the Ambassador Hotel later that night when Kennedy was assassinated. That 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. In 1968–69, he wrote and recorded two albums that covered issues such as civil rights, poverty, the Vietnam War and the death of RFK – Bobby Darin Born Walden Robert Cassotto (1968) and Commitment (1969).[39]

Direction Records

Returning to Los Angeles in 1969, Darin started his own record label which was titled Direction Records, putting out folk and protest music. Darin wrote "Simple Song of Freedom" in 1969, which, in an interesting turn of events, was first recorded by Tim Hardin and the song became Hardin's best-selling record. It reached #48 in Canada.[40] Also in Canada, a version by Buckwheat reached #52.[41] Darin himself sang the song "live" on several television variety shows.

Of his first Direction album, Darin told the press, "The purpose of Direction Records is to seek out statement-makers....The album is solely comprised of compositions designed to reflect my thoughts on the turbulent aspects of modern society."[42]

Dean Martin Presents: The Bobby Darin Amusement Company, L-R: Dick Smothers, Tom Smothers, and Bobby Darin as the Marx Brothers (1972)

Darin was struggling with his finances as his music career was dwindling. Darin's venture into protest music was not received favorably and generated little or no profits. In late 1969, Darin sold his songs, his record label (Direction Records), and publishing company (TM Music), losing the copyright to his own music and eventually, their worth. The company Darin sold them to went bankrupt. It was believed that during his final days, Darin was still trying to gain back the rights to his music.[17]


In 1970, Darin proposed a self-directed and written film The Vendors (1970), about the life of a folk singer.[43] However, the production left him broke and was not released, which led Darin to return to music. In spite of his declining health, Darin's last venture was spent performing live, while undergoing heart surgery and receiving post-treatment medication.[17] He released his last album, self-titled (1972) on Motown.

NBC Variety shows

Beginning on July 27, 1972, Darin starred in his own television variety show on NBC, Dean Martin Presents: The Bobby Darin Amusement Company, which ran for seven episodes ending on September 7. Beginning on January 19, 1973, Darin starred in a similar show on NBC called The Bobby Darin Show. That show ran for 13 episodes, ending on April 27. Darin subsequently made television guest appearances and remained a top draw.[44][45]

Style and influence

Darin was on par with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. In 1960, Darin infamously told Life magazine that he wanted to be established as a legend by the age of 25.[46] Darin's off-the-cuff statements generated a rivalry and playful banter between Sinatra and himself.[47] Sinatra released a cover version of "Mack the Knife" on the 1984 album L.A. Is My Lady,[48] perhaps a testament to Darin.

Darin and Elvis Presley were notable friends and teen idols in the 1950s. On occasion, Presley would sneak into Darin's concerts and watch him perform.[17]

In his short life, Darin explored all genres of music, such as pop, jazz, country, and folk music. In a 1988 Rolling Stone interview, Neil Young confessed: "I used to be pissed off at Bobby Darin because he changed styles so much. Now I look at him and I think he was a fucking genius."[49]

Other interests

Darin was an enthusiastic chess player.[50] His television show included an occasional segment where he would explain a chess move.[51] Darin arranged with the United States Chess Federation to sponsor a grandmaster tournament, which pitted him against the young Eastern Division champion Stephen Ryder, with the largest prize fund in history,[52] but the event was canceled after Darin's death.[45]

Personal life

Relationship with Connie Francis

In 1956, Darin and Connie Francis met after their manager, George Scheck arranged for Francis to record a song Darin had written. They were soon in what Darin's friends described as, "an intense romance". However, Francis's parents did not approve of Darin and one night after returning from a date, Francis found her bags packed and waiting for her on the front step. Darin proposed almost immediately. When her father found out about the engagement, he stormed into the rehearsals of The Jackie Gleason Show with a gun and threatened to shoot Darin, who managed to escape out of a window. Darin and Francis talked briefly after the show, but parted ways.[23] Over a four-month period in 1956, the two maintained a secret correspondence involving love letters. Darin kept the letters until his death, and the letters were auctioned. These exact letters were returned to Francis later in life.[53]

In the following years, they saw each other several times while appearing on the same television shows but were never romantically involved again. In 1960, Francis heard on the radio that Darin had married Sandra Dee — just as she and her father were driving through the Lincoln Tunnel. Francis later wrote: "I wished that somehow God would cause the Hudson River to come gushing in and entrap us in that tunnel." Francis has said that not marrying Darin was the biggest mistake of her life.[23]


Darin married actress Sandra Dee on December 1, 1960.[54] They met in Rome, Italy, while filming Come September (which was released in 1961).[55] It was Dee's mother, Mary Douvon, who convinced the actress to go on a date with Darin. Later commenting on their relationship, Dee stated: "Bobby loved me. He was a calculating guy, but I don't think he arrived in Rome with a plan to marry this new little Mary Pickford of Hollywood. Aside from the fact that he was rude, brash and always trying to get a reaction, I didn't like this person. I just thought, this is a conniving SOB."[56] On December 16, 1961, they had a son named Dodd Mitchell Darin.[57] In the early 1960s, the pair became Hollywood's golden couple, but they had a troublesome marriage.[56] Dee and Darin divorced on March 7, 1967.[58]

Darin's second wife was Andrea Yeager, a legal secretary whom he met in 1970[59] and married on June 25, 1973, after the couple had lived together for three years.[60][61] Four months later, in October 1973, the couple divorced[60] amid strain caused by Darin's worsening health problems.[62]


Darin had poor health throughout his life. Darin was frail as an infant and, beginning at age eight, had recurring bouts of rheumatic fever that left him with a seriously weakened heart.[45] Darin was well aware that he was in possession of a short life, and lived his life accordingly.

During his first heart surgery in January 1971, Darin had two artificial valves implanted, then spent most of that year recovering from the surgery.[citation needed] In the last few years of his life, Darin was often administered oxygen during and after his performances on stage and screen.[17]


In 1973, after failing to take antibiotics to protect his heart before a dental visit, Darin developed sepsis, an overwhelming systemic infection, which further weakened his body and affected one of his heart valves. On December 11 of that year, Darin checked himself into Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles for another round of open-heart surgery to repair the two artificial heart valves he had received in January 1971.[1] On the evening of December 19, a four-person surgical team worked for over six hours to repair Darin's damaged heart. Shortly after the surgery ended in the early morning hours of December 20, Darin died in the recovery room without regaining consciousness. He was only 37 years old.[3][4]

Darin's last wish in his will was that his body be donated to science for medical research, and Darin's remains were transferred to the UCLA Medical Center shortly after his death.[4]


In 1990, Darin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with singer and close friend Paul Anka announcing the honor.[63] In 1999, Darin was voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Songwriter Alan O'Day alluded to Darin and his recording of "Mack the Knife" in the song "Rock and Roll Heaven" (made a hit by the Righteous Brothers), a tribute to dead musicians, which O'Day wrote shortly after Darin's death.

On 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 named him one of the twentieth century's greatest entertainers. Fans paid for the star. Darin also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

On December 13, 2009, at its 2010 Grammy Awards ceremony, the Recording Academy awarded Darin a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.


Main article: Beyond the Sea (2004 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.

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. Spacey, however, 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.


In September 2016, Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical had its world premiere at Sydney Lyric Theatre, Australia. The production featured the story of Darin with an 18-piece big band. Darin was played by David Campbell.[64] Darin had an unusual upbringing, being raised by a "mother" who was actually his grandmother and alongside a "sister" who was actually his mother, a fact Darin did not discover until he was 31 years old.[47] Campbell grew up in a similar circumstance,[64] leading Bobby's son Dodd Darin to describe Campbell as perfect for the role, stating, "You have to have lived something like that to understand it and [Campbell] has, and I think he can relate to my dad, he can relate to the pain."[65] Campbell made similar observations, describing playing Darin as a "cathartic experience", and stating, "I feel like I'm healing things during this show."[65] The production was nominated in six categories in the 18th Helpmann Awards, including for Best Musical, with Campbell receiving the Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor in a Musical.[66]


Main article: Bobby Darin discography

Studio albums


Films starred



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