New Darin bio shows career slide

Roman Candle
By David Evanier

Bobby Darin could have been bigger than Frank Sinatra if he hadn't died young: At least that's what the singer's admirers say in this new biography by David Evanier.

Beginning with his early rock 'n' roll hit Splish Splash, followed later by the classic Mack the Knife, Darin became a star nightclub and record performer, making the difficult transition from teen idol to Las Vegas song and dance man with ease.

Darin is enjoying a comeback some 30 years after his untimely death at age 37. Kevin Spacey is playing him in a major film, and Darin's impact on the music scene is being seriously re-evaluated. Born illegitimately into a poor Italian New York family, Darin suffered from rheumatic fever as a child, which damaged his heart. He was chronically ill throughout his career, although he kept it a secret from his fans.

He was the product of a brief fling between his teenage mother and a college boy he never knew. The baby was lovingly brought up by his grandmother, believing his birth mother was his sister. Darin admired his grandmother but looked down on his overweight, loud "sister" and her working class husband and couldn't wait to get away from his background. He always believed he would die in his 30s, so lived life at a furious pace and, helped by several devoted mentors, including George Burns, he quickly moved to the top ranks of stardom.

Darin's marriage to teen idol Sandra Dee eventually turned sour. He had one son, Dodd, and after the Beatles changed pop music for ever and after the assassination of his political hero Robert F. Kennedy, Darin tried to remake himself as a folk singer, but his career nosedived. A unique star who flamed out too soon.