When Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” hit the charts in 1958, it could have been seen as just another one of the novelty records popular at the time. Another “Purple People Eater,” maybe, or “Witch Doctor.” Then Bobby Darin’s next hit, “Queen of the Hop”, threatened to stereotype him as another teen idol. With Fabian and Frankie Avalon.
Neither of those options was good enough for the ambitious singer, though. Nor should they have been, and his next three releases proved it. “Dream Lover” went to number two in 1959, and was followed by Darin’s only number one single, the amazing “Mack the Knife.” His next single was my favorite, though it “only” made it to number six on the charts: “Beyond the Sea.”
Bobby Darin’s talent allowed him to move across the pop, jazz, and country landscapes with ease. Before reaching stardom he wrote songs for leading singers of the day, including Connie Francis. She remembered that sometimes the two would go to the Apollo Theater in Harlem to hear entertainers like James Brown (Great American Things, Sept. 17, 2009) and Ray Charles (Great American Things, May 27, 2009) and would be “the only two white people in the audience.”
Darin’s life was cut short due to heart problems, and he died following unsuccessful surgery in 1973. He was only 37 years old. And yet, during his life he had extensive professional accomplishments. He had eleven top 10 singles, had his own TV variety show, was hugely popular as a headliner in Las Vegas, and was influential in producing songs for others, including Wayne Newton and Roger McGuinn.