LOS ANGELES-- Bobby Darin, whose records of "Mack the Knife" and "Splish Splash" made him a star of the rock 'n' roll era of a decade ago, died today at 37 after open heart surgery.
Darin had a history of heart trouble dating back to the age of eight, when he contracted rheumatic fever.
The entertainer, died about 3:15 am EST in the Intensive Care ward of Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, where he had undergone a six-hour operation by a team of four surgeons yesterday. He had been admitted last week for an examination, when it was discovered that one of the two artificial valves inserted in his heart in 1971 was malfunctioning.
"He never really came around after the operation,"a spokesman said. "He was just too weak to recover."
Darin made a number of records that sold more than a million copies, including "Dream Lover," and won an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor in 1963 for his role in Captain Newman, MD.
His marriage to Sandra Dee, one of the teen idol romances of the 1960's, lasted six years. A son, Dodd was born in 1961. The couple was divorced in 1967 after Miss Dee told a judge Darin " . . . just woke up one morning and didn't want to be married any more."
Six months ago Darin married Andrea Joy Yeager, a legal secretary.
Darin was born Walden Robert Cassotto in a tough area of the Bronx in New York City. His father, whom he described as "a small-time gangster," died before he was born. His mother lived on welfare.
In his early days in show business he picked up a reputation as a brash, cocky kid who got ahead more through his energy and determination than by his talent.
Picking the name of Darin out of the telephone book, he began recording on the Decca label with little success. Then in May 1958 he made the record "Splish Splash" a song he wrote in 12 minutes. The record sold 100,000 copies in three weeks and established Darin as a teen-age idol.
A recording of Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife," based largely on an earlier interpretation by Louis Armstrong, sold two million copies and established Darin as a pop star. "I had to get beyond rock'n roll; 'Mack' introduced me to the adult world," Darin said.
The ambitious Darin once vowed publicly that he would become a legend before he was 25. And he almost made it. At 24, he was playing the country's top night spots, and had signed a $2 million worth of movie contracts and had married his leading lady, Miss Dee.
Darin's career declined in the late 1960's, and he announced his retirement at the time of his first open heart operation. But he recovered well and late last year returned to the Las Vegas stage to receive a standing ovation.
Continuing his comeback, he was once again making television appearances and headlining in Las Vegas.
He seemed to have lost what one critic had called "built-in arrogance," and Darin himself admitted "I have found an inner peace which precludes my doing battle with myself. As a result, the chances of my doing battle with the rest of the world are removed."
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