Bobby Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto; May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor in film and television. He performed jazz, pop, rock and roll, folk, swing, and country music.
He started his career as a songwriter for Connie Francis. He recorded his first million-selling single, “Splish Splash”, in 1958. That was followed by “Dream Lover”, “Mack the Knife”, and “Beyond the Sea”, which brought him worldwide fame. In 1962 he won a Golden Globe Award for his first film, Come September, co-starring his first wife, actress Sandra Dee.
During the 1960s, he became more politically active and worked on Robert F. Kennedy’s Democratic presidential campaign. He was present on the night of June 4/5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at the time of Kennedy’s assassination. During the same year, he discovered he had been raised by his grandmother, not his mother, and 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.
Although he made a successful comeback (in television) in the early 1970s, his health was beginning to fail, as he had always expected, following bouts of rheumatic fever in childhood. The knowledge of his vulnerability had always spurred him on to use his musical talent while still young. He died at the age of 37 after a heart operation in Los Angeles.
In 1973, after failing to take antibiotics to protect his heart before a dental visit, Darin developed sepsis, an overwhelming systemic infection. That further weakened his body and affected one of his heart valves. On December 11, he 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. On the evening of December 19, a five-person surgical team worked for over six hours to repair his damaged heart. Shortly after the surgery ended in the early morning hours of December 20, 1973, Darin died in the recovery room without regaining consciousness. He was 37 years old.
Darin’s last wish in his will was that his body be donated to science for medical research. His remains were transferred to the UCLA Medical Center shortly after his death.
In 1990, Darin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with singer and close friend Paul Anka announcing the honor. In 1999, Darin was voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Songwriter Alan O’Day alludes 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.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Bobby Darin among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.