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Bobby Darin (May 14, 1936 - December 20, 1973) (born Walden Robert Cassotto) was one of the most popular American big band performers and rock and roll teen idols of the late 1950s. He is widely respected for being a multi-talented, versatile performer who conquered many music genres, including folk, country, pop, and jazz.
He was also an award-winning actor, songwriter and music business entrepreneur. His wish for a legacy was "to be remembered as a human being and as a great performer." Among his many other contributions, he became a Goodwill Ambassador for the American Heart Association.
Darin was born to a poor, working-class Italian-American family in The Bronx, New York. His father disappeared a few months before he was born. It was the height of the Great Depression, and he once remarked that his crib was a cardboard box, later a dresser drawer. As a result, his mother had to accept Home Relief, which was what "Welfare" was referred to in those days, to take care of her infant son. It was not until he was an adult that he learned that the woman he thought to be his sister Nina, 17 years his senior, was in fact his mother, and the woman he thought to be his mother was his grandmother. He went to his death without knowing the identity of his birth father.
In 1956, his agent negotiated a contract for him with Decca Records, where Bill Haley & His Comets had risen to fame. However, this was a time when rock and roll was still in its infancy and the number of capable record producers and arrangers in the field was extremely limited. Like other performers, Darin was at first pigeon-holed, recording the banal songs popular with record executives at the time.
He left Decca to sign with Atlantic Records (ATCO), where he wrote and arranged music for himself and others. There, after three mediocre recordings, his career took off in 1958 when he wrote and recorded "Splish Splash"; it became an instant hit, selling more than a million copies. "Splish Splash" was written with Radio DJ Murray Murray the K Kaufman, who bet that Darin could not write a song that started out with the words, "Splish Splash, I was takin' a bath", as suggested by Murray's mother. They eventually shared writing credits with her. This was followed by more hits recorded in the same successful style.
In addition to music, Darin became a motion picture actor. In 1960, he was the only actor ever to be contractually signed to five major Hollywood studios. He wrote music for several films and acted in them as well. In his first major film, Come September, a romantic comedy designed to capitalize on his popularity with the teenage and young adult audience, he met and co-starred with 18-year-old actress Sandra Dee. They fell in love and were married in 1960. They had one son, Dodd Mitchell Darin, in 1961, and divorced in 1967.
Asking to be taken seriously, he took on more meaningful movie roles, and in 1962, he won the Golden Globe Award for "Most Promising Male Newcomer" for his role in Pressure Point.
In 1963, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a shell-shocked soldier in Captain Newman, M.D.. At the Cannes Film Festival, where his records-in particular "Beyond the Sea"-brought him a wide following, he won the French Film Critics Award for Best Actor.
A major disappointment in his acting career came when he lost the lead role of Tony in West Side Story to Richard Beymer. Several leading Hollywood men like Anthony Perkins, Warren Beatty, and Elvis Presley were also major contenders for the role. Darin had also been penciled in to star opposite Jackie Gleason in The Hustler, before Paul Newman's schedule suddenly allowed first choice Newman to step in.
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