Not Many Better Than This One
August 30, 2020
Bobby Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto; May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, impressionist, and actor in film and television. He performed jazz, pop, rock and roll, folk, swing, and country music.
His maternal grandfather, Saverio Antonio "Big Sam Curly" Cassotto (born January 26, 1882), was a would-be mobster of Italian descent who died in prison from pneumonia a year before Darin's birth. His maternal grandmother, Vivian Fern Walden, who called herself "Polly" and was born in 1882, was of English ancestry. She was a vaudeville singer. Darin's birth mother, Vanina Juliette "Nina" Cassotto (born November 30, 1917), became pregnant with him in the summer of 1935, when she was 17. Nina and her mother hatched a plan to pass her baby off as Nina's younger brother.
Darin believed his mother Nina was instead his elder sister and that Polly, who had raised him from birth, was his mother. In 1968, when he was 32 and considering entering politics, Nina told him the truth, reportedly devastating Darin. She refused to reveal the identity of his biological father, and kept that secret to her death in 1983. [Well, that will mess you up pretty badly!]
He started his career as a songwriter for Connie Francis. He recorded his first million-selling single, "Splish Splash", in 1958. That was followed by "Dream Lover", "Mack the Knife", and "Beyond the Sea", which brought him worldwide fame. In 1962 he won a Golden Globe Award for his first film, Come September, co-starring his first wife, actress Sandra Dee.
During the 1960s, he became more politically active and worked on Robert F. Kennedy's Democratic presidential campaign. He was present on the night of June 4/5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at the time of Kennedy's assassination. During the same year, he discovered he had been raised by his grandmother, not his mother, and that the woman he thought was his sister was actually his mother. Those events deeply affected Darin and sent him into a long period of seclusion.
Although he made a successful comeback (in television) in the early 1970s, his health was beginning to fail, as he had always expected, following bouts of rheumatic fever in childhood. The knowledge of his vulnerability had always spurred him on to use his musical talent while still young. He died at the age of 37 after a heart operation in Los Angeles.