Bobby Darin - Biography
By Nick Castro
Bobby Darin is one of those iconic 50's singers whose name will always be synonymous with songs like, "Splish Splash" and "Mack the Knife". He is also remembered, by older music fans, for his NBC variety show on television. His early career garnered many comparison to Frank Sinatra.
Born, Walden Robert Cassotto, in 1936, in New York City, Darin learned to play many instruments as a child. his father died before he was born, and he and his mother went to live with his sister and her husband. Later he found out that his family had kept many secrets from him, including that his sister was actually his mother, his mother his grandmother, and the man who died in jail before his birth, was actually his grandfather, not his father. He suffered from rheumatic fever, which sent his middle class family into debt and kept Darin out of school much of early childhood. The family was very poor and living in the Bronx. They struggled, financially, to keep up with the growing medical expenses, which were mounting from Darin's frequent hospital stays. Although Darin was unable to attend school, his family supplied him with a steady stream of books, which Darin devoured. Regardless of his lack of foral schooling in his early years, he would later excel at his studies due to his high level of natural intelligence. By his teen years, he was well enough to attend a normal high school, and this afforded the opportunity to attend Hunter college on a scholarship. By this time though, Darin was proficient on many of the instruments he had been playing since his youth. Soon Darin realized that his main love was performing, over his schooling, and he dropped out to pursue his music career. First he made attempts to work in theater, and he would get bit parts, often working as kitchen staff and stand-in, waiting to fill in on stage. After struggling with this arrangement for a while, Darin decided he was better off concentrating on his singing, rather than his acting, though that would later change for him as well.
Darin began to get work singing for commercials and soon he got a deal with Decca Records, in 1956. He created the name Bobby Darin, although stories vary as to how he came up with it, and he was on his way. Darin recorded a few singles for the label, but none of them charted and soon the label decided not to invest any more of their money into the young artist. The label dropped Darin, but before he could be dismayed about it, he was signed to Atlantic records, and he released many songs for their subsidiary label, Atco. Although he got off to a slow start there as well, he would soon score big with one of his own compositions, that would follow him throughout the remainder of his career, "Splish Splash". "Splish Splash" was a funny little song Darin wrote, and was meant to be a whimsical number about a bathtub party. The song was a tremendous success and was number one within weeks of its release. This song would singlehandedly change the young singers life forever. He followed this up with the songs, "Queen of the Hop" and "Dream Lover" but Darin soon became worried that we was pandering to the teenie bopper crowd and he preferred to record more mature music.
Darin followed up these current successes with the album Bobby Darin (1958 - Atlantic), which contained the single "Splish Splash" as well as many other songs, partially penned by Darin, such as "Pretty Betty" and "Don't Call My Name". The album did not sell as well as the single and the next record came out of Atco. He released his famous album That's All (1959 - Atco), which may have been the biggest success of his career. It contained his famous version of "Mack the Knife", which was a number one hit for months. Although this album only contained one Darin original, the song "That's the Way Love Is", it marked a turning point in his career. This album established Darin as more than just a teenie bop singer and proved that he could competently handle songs like Gershwin's It Ain't Necessarily So" and Hammerstein's "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise". He also performed some other jazz standards like "I'll Remember April".
Darin's next album This is Darin (1960 - Atco), not only featured jazz saxophonist Buddy Collette, but only furthered his successes in the music world. He won several Grammy Awards for this album which was brilliantly orchestrated. This album was definitely intended for a more adult audience than any of his previous effots and it contained many of the jazz standards that he was loved for on his previous effort, most notably was Ellington's song, "Caravan" and the standard "Black Coffee". Many of Darin's die-hard fans consider this album to be his strongest work, as a whole.
During this time, Darin also began to work acting in films such as Come September, his first film, and the film Pressure Point. He even received an Academy Award nomination for his performance in the movie Captain Newman, M.D..
Throughout the 60's Darin was extremely helpful with other performers, supporting them in any way he could. Some of the recipients of his generosity were Flip Wilson and Wayne Newton. It was during this time that Darin began his own music publishing firm, TM Music. It was TM that first signed the young shil star, Newton, and released his first hit song, an American pop version of the German song, "Danke Schoen". Even Roger McGuinn, later of Los Angeles band, The Byrds, worked for Darin at TM, while he was young.
For a short time in the early 60's, Darin had a falling out with Atlantic and he moved on to Capitol, where he recorded a series of country pop records, including You're the Reason I'm Living (1963 - Capitol), which contained a number of arrangements by Shorty Rogers and Jimmie Haskell. Glen Campbell, famous session guitar player, is on the album as well.
Darin's career continued throughout the remainder of the 60's, though it would slow down tremendously for him. He did begin to host a variety show for NBC in 1972 but was suffering from heart problems, a result of his childhood illness, and he died during heart surgery in 1973, just a week before Christmas.