Who was/is Bobby Darin ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame – the list of performers, not the museum in Cleveland – has often generated its share of controversy; most often having to do with the credentials of one inductee or another. More specifically, "was that artist 'rock 'n' roll'?"
The question has been raised relative to soul men and women, folk artists, country singers, rappers, and Miles Davis. Not to slight their contribution to music, generally, but do they belong in the same Hall of Fame as (say) Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley?
Steve Blauner, Bobby Darin's long-time manager and even longer-time friend, heard that question often, stemming from Darin's induction in 1990 – the same year as The Who, Hank Ballard, The Kinks, The Platters, The Four Tops, The Four Seasons, and Simon & Garfunkel.
You see the problem? Even more than some of the others, Darin stood out: Mister Mack The Knife, wasn't he? The man who, during a very brief 37 years on Earth, made his greatest and arguably most lasting mark as a tuxedoed finger-snapper, fronting a big band and wowing adult audiences at New York's Copacabana and in Las Vegas?
Well, it's a little more complicated than that.
"He almost didn't get into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame," says Blauner, "because put on a bow tie. But all of those people back then wanted to be Bobby – he was their Sinatra." And by "back then," Blauner is talking about before Mack The Knife, when Bobby Darin was scuffling the New York streets, looking for a hit; any kind of hit.
In fact, Bobby Darin was singing and playing before rock 'n' roll even existed. This compilation gathers several – but hardly all – of Darin's more rocking sides, a mere sampling of a musical career that went from calypso to rock 'n' roll; from Sinatra-styled pop to country and folk. And all before Darin died from a defective heart at the age of 37 on December 20, 1973.
The Calypso Years
Bobby was raised by the women he knew as his mother, sister and brother-in-law in Manhattan's Delancy Street projects. That was, friends, say, a key to his ambition; another was a lifelong heart condition that began with rheumatic fever in his infancy (Nina, the woman Darin introduced as his 'sister' was, in fact, his mother; his 'mother,' his grandmother. Bobby did not know this, though, until he was 30. Charlie Maffia, Nina's husband, was, though not Bobby's father, highly influential in his life).
"He was raised in the slums under the Triborough Bridge," explains Steve Karmen. "His struggle was not so much to have a hit as to escape his background."
When Karmen met Darin, both were attending the Bronx High School of Science, and it was the early '50s. "I was playing my saxophone in a school recital, and Bobby approached me; he wanted to form a band," says Karmen. "The swing era was coming to a polite end and rock 'n' roll was just coming in." The group also included pianist Eddie Ocasio, Dick Behrke on trumpet, and guitarist Walter Raim. Everybody sang. "We were all learning our instruments, really," Raim told Jeff Bleiel. "Bobby was a talented, musical kid. He decided that he would be the drummer, then he learned to play…"
"We played up-tempo blues with a heavy backbeat," Karmen elaborates, in addition to stock arrangements that were available to anybody – though, Karmen admits, "When you can't read music, it's hard to be a musician.
The band split when Darin graduated. "Dick and Walter wanted to be serious musicians," explains Karmen. "Bobby and I wanted to be entertainers.
I learned mandolin and guitar, and Bobby picked up some piano. When Harry Belafonte started becoming successful, we started doing his act – only wearing suits and ties."
Karmen and Darin played professionally, if only just so; gigs included shows in Catskill Mountain resorts, opening for or between featured acts. They started in the summer of 1951, making $35 per week.
Somewhere down the line, Don Kirshner entered the scene.
"I was working as a bellhop in Atlantic Beach, and had just written my first song. One day I was at a candy store near my house in Washington Heights, and a girl I knew walked in with Bobby – who was working as a janitor in the neighborhood. He was impressed because I was big-time; I'd just had my first song ['In All Of My Dreams'] published. We walked over to the girl's place, where she had a piano. Bobby proceeded to play me five songs; I said 'Let's team up, and we'll be the biggest thing in the business'."
Bobby Darin Bobby Darin - Bobby Rocks
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