My thanks to Doug (DeLuca), Jimmy (Kimmel), Adam (Carolla) and all those who put this event together:
Indulge me, if you will, as I'd like to share a story with you. The year
was 1936, and a poor family in the Bronx welcomed a new baby boy into the
family. In his first years of life the boy was frail and sickly. At one
point he developed a severe case of rheumatic fever. One evening the boy
put his ear to the door and overheard the family doctor tell his mother
that even with the best medical care, the boy wouldn't live to see 16. No
one knew it at the time, probably not even the boy himself, but the seeds of
courage and grit were born in that very moment.
Times were tough and the
family was poor. How poor, one might ask? Well, a dresser drawer was his crib for
awhile. No free passes or silver spoon for this scrawny kid. Ah, but
there had to be some good cards in the deck. There were; the good
cards came in the form of quality music that always played in the house.
The Big Bands and swing began to permeate the sickly kid's veins and gave
him a hope that no antibiotic ever could. Certainly, he was sad about not
being able to play stickball or roughhouse with the other kids, but he
had discovered music and that became his escape from poverty and illness.
Before he could blink an eye, the age of 16 came and went. Heck, if he could
defeat a death sentence, he could do anything! He was always bright, so
The Bronx High School of Science was for him; that school, of course, was only
for the smartest young minds around. The problem was that the kid was
always in a bit of a hurry. After graduating early he entered Hunter
College. Exit stage left and quick! Why waste time learning about
lighting and sets? He knew he wanted to perform.
Enter Grandma, an
old vaudevillian. With the help of her love and nurturing, the young man began to
plan about getting out of the Bronx. Music and show business were
going to be his ticket to the good life, however short that life might
The young man now began to fight his battle in the streets. The Brill
Building, small night clubs in Detroit and New York and of course,
writing songs. You know the usual story of hopes and dreams of the big
time. The interesting thing about him was that he was brash, cocky and
arrogant long before anyone knew his name. But wait a minute! One man's
cocky, arrogant brashness might actually be another man's fear of
getting sick and dying before his time. The excitement of getting his
first record deal soon faded with the reality of repeated singles not
charting. Down to his final recording session with the label, he brought
in a silly little tune that he penned in 15 minutes while waiting for
his big-time DJ friend to get out of the shower.
The years of dreams and hard work came to fruition with a Fats Domino
inspired tune that rocketed to the top of the charts.
He was 22 years of age, and now it began to happen for him. Hit upon hit
followed along with regular TV bookings and gigs. But as usual with him,
he quickly became restless and was already tired of rock and roll
music. It was the Big Band sound and the great vocalists that he admired,
so it was time to move on musically. Nightclubs, Vegas and the standards
were where he was headed. His record label exes said to wait
just a minute. They told him that he was
a rock and roll singer so don't even try that crooner stuff! You
know what he told them? I'll pay for the recording sessions out of my
own royalty money that you owe me! Oh what a foolish youth, laughed the
record execs. Soon they stopped laughing and gleefully started counting
the money when one of the tunes stayed at number one for 13 weeks and
ultimately became an American classic.
With the release of his self-financed album of standards, the comet ride
began in earnest which included being Number 1 on the charts, Grammy awards and the finest
nightclubs in the country.
But as usual, the kid wasn't satisfied yet. So
he was quickly off to make films with an Oscar nomination along the way,
marriage to America's film sweetheart and the birth of a son. It was all in the
cards and not bad for a sick kid from the other side of the tracks.
an elusive mistress fame and fortune can be! As quickly as it came, it
began to fade. The British invasion changed music forever and led to the
extinction of the nightclub world he so loved. He tried to adapt
musically and keep current with the times. He even took off his toupee
and threw away the tux. The critics attacked him for being a latter day
hippie trying to hang on, but he looked around and wanted to make music
that was relevant to the war that raged abroad and the civil rights
battles at home.
All this time, the heart ailment followed him like a
shadow, and it took its toll on him. He was in and out of hospitals and regularly
used oxygen when he came off the stage. In 1971 he could run no longer
and underwent open heart surgery. It was successful so he decided
that Vegas, tuxedoes, his hairpiece and the standards were calling his
name again. Besides, he had large medical bills to pay and no health
insurance. Standing in line at the free clinic was not an appealing
thought, not to mention that he begun to think about his son and the
By 1973 his career had come full circle. He mixed the classic hits with
current material, once again played Vegas and once again they loved
him. He even convinced a network to let him host his own variety show. However, it
didn't work because he needed the energy that comes only from a
live audience. But all in all, he finally seemed to be at peace with
himself, his music and his place in the world. Maybe it was time
for the first time ever to stop the frenetic pace and simply enjoy who
he was and what he had. Although he had always looked to the future, his
past had a cruel way of always catching up with him. In 1973 at the age
of 37, he died after failing to recover from a second open heart surgery
This, of course, is Bobby Darin's story, my father's story. To every boy,
a father is larger than life. In my case that's no different except that
I share him with the world. He was charismatic, very funny and always
lit up a room when entering. Let's face it; he defined hip and cool
for his era. His sister once said that being around him was like a drug
and that you needed more and more. I can tell you that describes
perfectly what it was like to be around Bobby Darin.
I think there are
some wonderful life lessons in his story. Lessons of overcoming
seemingly insurmountable odds and going after what you really want from
this life. I'm thrilled to see his work get a new appreciation and
respect some 30 years after his passing. He was brash and difficult at
times... but then again, aren't we all? For the most part, he was a fine
human being, a loyal friend and a loving father. I was only 12 when he
died, but he taught me right from wrong and that everyone in this life
deserves a fair chance. The boy from the Bronx achieved what he set out
to do in his short life. More importantly, he did it while never forgetting
where he came from or those who had been less fortunate than he had been.
Not a day goes by when I don't think of him. I'm proud to be his son
and along with my wife, Audrey, I'm determined to share his memory and
character with my two young daughters. My heartfelt thanks to all of you
who loved and admired him and are here to celebrate his life tonight.
love you, Pop...
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