I had some time to kill and a 10 per cent discount card, and had forgotten to put any CD’s in the player in the car, so I decided to splurge on a $9.99 bargain before leaving Target yesterday.
Browsing the “Jazz and Pop” counter it jumped out at me. “The Legendary Bobby Darin” CD. Sometimes you just know. Had to have it.
Playing it, I got one little thrill after the other. A marginal Bobby Darin fan, I did know this: he was a consummate entertainer with a great voice, an impeccable music sense, and a personality that would come through on every cut. I was not a bit disappointed. Either faking a country accent or singing a smooth ballad straight, or doing what he did best, the “up-tempo” version of such pop classics as “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “Oh! Look at Me Now,” Bobby Darin was a voice for his times. The CD was an astonishment.
My first husband and I had seen a forgettable flick called Come September early in our marriage. It featured young Bobby Darin and even younger Sandra Dee, who were soon to be man and wife too. Tommy, my husband, was indifferent to popular music, but a fan of grand opera and Dixieland jazz. Somewhere within the movie Darin was called upon to sing an original song called “Multiplication.” Tommy’s jaw dropped. “That’s a great song! And he wrote it!” he said. He always had great respect for Bobby Darin after that, and so did I.
I decided to read the liner notes when I got home, just to refresh myself. I had seen the movie Beyond the Sea, starring one of my favorites, Kevin Spacey (who surprised me by being able to sing and dance), so I knew some of the biography as spelled out in the the sensitive copy. I read it with great interest – not the usual hagliographical stuff, but straightforward praise for an underpraised singer, long gone from this earth. Darin died in 1973 at the age of 37.
Imagine my second astonishment of the day. The notes were written by my own protégé – my nephew Will Friedwald! I take credit for introducing Will to his life work in his early teens when I played for him the cut from the album A Swingin' Affair (Frank Sinatra) “I Wish I Were in Love Again." I don't claim to have been prescient here; I hoped Will, a lover of puns and clever wordplay, would respond to the Lorenz Hart lyrics.
It was Sinatra, more than the song, that Will fell in love with that momentous afternoon. Yesterday I shouldn’t have been surprised to read Will’s byline, but I’m always somewhat surprised, even after a book about Sinatra (The Song Is You) and many articles about every popular singer from Tony Bennett to Elvis Presley – and my favorite of Will’s books, Stardust Melodies, itself a love song to popular music. Not so much surprised, then, but it’s always nice to run into him.
And this time I got to hear a little good music and renew my acquaintance with a talent I'd almost forgotten. Welcome back, Bobby Darin.