This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
BOBBY DARIN changed a lot during his singing career – starting out as a rock & roller, then to a big band singer, a Sinatra wannabe, a jazz singer, a folk singer and blues performer.
I don’t think there are many of us who liked all aspects of his output, but I could be wrong. We’ll see today as that’s what I’m doing, at least to a degree. I prefer his early work.
Bobby’s folks knew him as Walden Robert Cassotto and he was from the Bronx.
Always in rather fragile health, he was motivated to succeed before he turned up his toes which happened at the too young age of 37.
Bobby started as a Brill Building writer, especially for Connie Francis, with whom he was romantically attached until her rather strict father ran him off with a gun. Connie has said that he was the love of her life.
He later married Sandra Dee, no accounting for taste. He also had a songwriting partnership with Don Kirshner, who was later responsible for the formation of The Monkees.
Bobby mentored such diverse talents as Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson, Wayne Newton and Jim (later Roger) McGuinn from The Byrds.
BOBBY wrote the song, Splish Splash, as a bet with the disk jockey, Murray the K. The bet was that he couldn’t write a song that began with the words "Splish Splash, I was takin' a bath". He not only could, he took it to the top of the charts.
Beyond the Sea was based on a song called La Mer, written and performed by Charles Trenet. They kept the tune and put English words to it, words that bore no resemblance to the original.
I think La Mer is the superior song, but Beyond the Sea isn’t bad, especially if you don’t have the original around with which to compare it.
The song Multiplication made the charts in 1961. It was from an album called “Twist with Bobby Darin”. Groan.
I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but in 1962 Leroy Van Dyke had a hit with the song If a Woman Answers. In that same year, really about the same time, BOBBY had one as well with If a Man Answers. Got everything covered there.
Now we’re getting to some quality stuff. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman did a wonderful version of the song Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise. BOBBY’s version is nowhere near as good as that one (nor is anyone else’s), but it’s not too bad.
One of his finest of the fifties’ songs is Dream Lover. It’s a song he wrote himself and was recorded at Atlantic Records, a company that knew how to get the best out of their artists. As a trivial aside, that’s Neil Sedaka playing the piano.
Bobby’s version of Mack the Knife is based vaguely on Louis Armstrong’s earlier hit. Both bear little resemblance to the original version from Kurt Weill’s “Threepenny Opera”. It doesn’t matter too much as they both earned a tidy amount for themselves.
Back to the rather silly songs, this one from the early sixties, although it sounds as if it should be earlier. The song I’m talking about is Things, another he wrote himself. I could have done without the female singers on this one; it would have been better without them but that was the way to do things back then I suppose.
Black Coffee is an old song that he recorded on an album called “This is Darin” in 1960. It sounds as if it came from much later in his career, so I guess he was already thinking of a change of style.
During his folk period, BOBBY recorded several of Tim Hardin’s songs. Interestingly, the highest charting song Tim had was with a Bobby Darin song, in spite of the many terrific songs he wrote himself.
Anyway, I’m not using the obvious one, instead here is The Lady Came From Baltimore. He sounds rather like Tim on this one.
As well as Tim, BOBBY took a song from another singer/songwriter, in this case it was John Sebastian. The song is Darling Be Home Soon, which has been covered extensively over the years. It’s a good song on which to end.