When Bobby Darin sang about longing for love, listeners had no idea how many secrets he was hiding. Dream Lover was a big hit in 1959. It certainly helped propel him to stardom, but it couldn’t erase his past or ultimately save his life.
Born to an 18-year-old unwed mother in 1935, he was raised as her brother. When his family finally told him the truth, the knowledge would shake his world. That trauma was compounded by terrible events witnessed firsthand by Darrin and by the chronic illness that would ultimately claim his life and
Before he claimed the name Bobby Darin, he was just little Robert Casotto. His single grandmother would raise him as her own because her husband died in prison before Bobby’s birth. Due to a bout of rheumatic fever which damaged his heart, young Bobby spent his early years in and out of hospitals. A heart condition threatened to prevent him from having a normal life. Yet, with the help of his family, he kept pushing through. He learned to play the piano and guitar as well as several other instruments. He even made it as far as college before dropping out for a musical career.
In young adulthood, he found himself among some of the greatest young songwriters of the day. This included Glenn Campbell and Carole King. Just as both of these musical geniuses would go on to stardom in their own right, Bobby Darin persevered. He continued with a broken heart after his sweetheart, Connie Francis, was kept from him by her overbearing father. Several of Connie’s early hits were written by Bobby Darrin.
Since it was the late 1950s, Darrin experimented with a sound that would rival Elvis Presley. Yet he ultimately settled on the other big sound of the 1950s, the crooners. Like Frank Sinatra and other singers, Darrin found success with a smooth style that made the most of his musical talent.
His signature hits, Somewhere Beyond the Sea and Mack the Knife, are further proof that he rivaled Sinatra for top crooner. Then, in 1962, he added acting to his portfolio. He claimed a Golden Globe for the movie, Come September. Later he would receive another Golden Globe nomination and an Academy Award nomination, confirming him as an acting talent as well as a musical one.
The political activism of the 1960s encouraged Darrin to campaign for both Kennedy brothers. The assassination of Pres. Kennedy made him more determined to be a part of the political process. Years later, he adamantly campaigned for Robert Kennedy. Sadly this placed him at the Ambassador Hotel when Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
For Darrin, witnessing the tragedy was compounded that same year by his sister’s revelation that she was really his mother. Adding to his confusion, she refused to tell him about his natural father. As 1968 came to a close, the famous singer and actor went into seclusion, depriving the world of his talent while he dealt with these big psychological blows.
He returned to acting, establishing himself on television. Yet this new career was cut short. Darrin’s life came to a untimely end when he was only 37. Even with advancements in medicine, doctors couldn’t save him. In 1971, they tried valve replacement with limited success. Two years later, open heart surgery was the only option, and sadly he died during the procedure.
Still his music lives on. From the silly fun of Splish Splash to the longing of Dream Lover, Bobby Darin made his mark on American music and movies.