BOBBY DARIN DIED 40 YEARS AGO
Bobby Darin's singles were part of my adolescence, and all these decades later I'm still impressed by his work, the multiplicity of his talent and his human decency.
He was a songwriter, singer, actor, pianist, guitarist and mentor to RogerMcGuinn; he conquered the pop charts and then dinner-jacket showbiz, yet came to see that turbulent times called for songs of social conscience. As a person he was gracious, articulate, sharp and funny.
He was a talented actor, playing a shell-shocked soldier in the Gregory Peck film Captain Newman, M.D. in 1963, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. More solidly, that performance won him the French Film Critics' Best Actor Award at that year's Cannes Film Festival.
He was, too, a serious chess-player, and was going to sponsor a generously financed chess tournament until his serious ill health prevented its launch.
As for his records, well OK, not ‘Splish Splash', but ‘Dream Lover', produced by the Erteguns, was one of the most shimmering records of 1960 - and was followed, very surprisingly, by the best version of ‘Mack the Knife', with Darin unarguably the master of this radically different genre. Then came ‘Beyond the Sea', a more than worthy successor that didn't try to replace the Charles Trenet original (‘La Mer', a timeless track blemished only by the ridiculously over-hearty male voice choir at the end). I still love it. I loved a number of his later records too, though often preferring the B-sides, as with ‘Nature Boy' and, my all-time favourite, ‘I'll Be There', which had, at the time, a relatively intricate rhyme-scheme, a seductively flowing melody line, and was delivered immaculately and with tenderness and great feeling:
Neil Young said this of him: “I used to be pissed off at Bobby Darin because he changed styles so much. Now I look at him and think he was a genius.”
He sang duets on TV with an extraordinary range of people from Stevie Wonder to Judy Garland, from Dinah Shore to Clyde McPhatter and from Linda Ronstadt to Jimmy Durante. He sang ‘I'll Be Your Baby Tonight' with Judy Collins in 1969; he could sing 'Cry Me A River' and ‘Lonesome Whistle Blues'; he could play bluesy harmonica and convincing drum solos; and do fine imitations of Hollywood stars.
Here's that footage of him with Clyde McPhatter - with Darin casually brilliant on rock'n'roll piano:
Finally, a curio - chatting with Elvis:
Dion DiMucci said of him: “He took from the best, but when it came out it was pure Darin."
He died in the early hours of December 20, 1973, shortly after the completion of surgery to repair artificial heart valves he'd received in an earlier operation. He was 37 years old.