San Gennaro Festival
Honors
Bobby Darin



Audrey, Dodd and Alexa Darin


This year (September 24th-26th, 2004) the Feast of San Gennaro LA paid tribute to legendary Italian singer, Bobby Darin. A host of celebrities gathered together to honor Bobby as "an inspiration and a great performer."





Dodd Darin's Acceptance Speech

Information about this event is HERE

9/23/04

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 be.

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.

But what 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 uncertain future.

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 procedure.

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.

I love you, Pop...

Dodd Darin




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