Jan 19, 2018

Bobby Darin: Dream Lover of the 1950s

Bobby Darin (1936-1973) grew up in East Harlem, New York.  His first foray into the music business was as a songwriter, paired with future radio great Don Kirshner.  But he hit the big time in 1958 with "Splish Splash" (I Was Taking a Bath), a humorous take on the teen dance crazes of the era.

Splish, splash, I was taking a bath
On about a Saturday night

Bing, bang
I saw the whole gang
Dancin' on my living room rug.
Flip flop
They was doin' the bop
All the teens had the dancin' bug.

He illustrated the song with a nude, censored photo of himself in the shower, a rarity in 1958.

More songs, humorous, romantic, and just weird, appeared, six albums in 1960 alone.  Perhaps the weirdest is "Mack the Knife," about a murderer:

Now on the sidewalk, sunny morning,
Lies a body just oozin' life,
And someone's sneakin' 'round the corner
Could that someone be Mack the Knife?

Well, at least it's not heterosexist.

In the 1960s Bobby moved into moved into jazz, country-western, and folk, became a dramatic actor, and ran a successful music publishing company.

In 1960 he married Sandra Dee, the star of Gidget (1959), a gay icon and role model to young lesbians of the era, here being wooed by James Darin (no relation) and some other beach hunks.

The couple divorced in 1967, leaving a son, Dodd.

Bobby was married again, briefly, in 1973.

He was politically liberal, and heavily involved in the campaign to elect Robert F. Kennedy as president.

There's not much evidence of Bobby being gay in real life.  The 2004 biopic Beyond the Sea, starring Kevin Spacey, contains a few gay jokes:

Sandra tells Bobby that if he thinks acting is so easy, he should try kissing Troy Donahue (who was rumored to be gay).  Bobby smiles, as if he's considering it.

But that may be a take on Kevin Spacey himself.

On the other hand, most of Bobby's songs drop pronouns, and could apply equally to male and female lovers:

You're the reason I'm living
You're the breath that I take
You're the stars in my heaven
You're the sun when I wake.

The nude photo is on Tales of West Hollywood.

See also: Ricky Nelson

1 comment:

  1. Not really fair to say "liberal" to describe 60s Dems: The modern use comes from the neoliberals of the 80s. (Think Gary Hart.) "Neo" because liberalism died with a bunch of self-defenestrating oligarchs in late 1929.

    Okay, that's just one of my personal bugaboos, the "not two ideologies, and the more radical one calls itself conservatism" Americanism.

    Anyway, Mack the Knife is what's called a murder ballad, so, not weird at all. Nick Cave does a lot of then today. My favorite, though, is Martina McBride's "Independence Day".

    Is it fair to call Kevin Spacey gay rumors "rumors" anymore? I'm pretty sure he came out, confessed to sexual abuse of a minor, and gaslighted said minor in one delicious copypasta.


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