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Bobby Darin Grew up Not Knowing His Real Mom's Identity as Doctors Gave Him 16 Years to Live

Titi Dokubo
Nov 19, 2021
06:00 A.M.

Bobby Darin made his mark in the entertainment world before he died at 37. Being told that he would not live beyond 16 made him want to become a legend at 25.

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He grew up sickly, but he had developed a knack for music and could play different musical instruments by the time he was a teenager.

Five years before his death, he discovered that his mother was not who she said she was. Here's a look into Bobby Darin's life and the truth about his birth mother.

Photo of Bobby Darin in August 1963, in California | Photo: Getty Images

Photo of Bobby Darin in August 1963, in California | Photo: Getty Images

ABOUT BOBBY DARIN

Bobby Darin, whose real name was Walden Robert Cassotto, was born on May 14, 1936, in New York. He was one of the most popular artists during the 1950s and 1960s.

However, as a child, Darin suffered from acute rheumatic fever. This illness left him with a weakened heart and the awareness that his end was imminent.

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When he was about six or seven, the doctors had said they didn't expect him to live beyond 16. He did not let this stop him from living his best life. It also fueled his ambition to want to become a legend by 25.

Bobby Darin at the premiere of "A Countess From Hong Kong" on March 15, 1967, in New York | Photo: Getty Images

Bobby Darin at the premiere of "A Countess From Hong Kong" on March 15, 1967, in New York | Photo: Getty Images

While studying at the Bronx High School Of Science, he learned to play the piano, drums, and guitar. Encouraged by his mother, he decided to start singing.

He started playing in a band in high school and had one of his first gigs at a school dance. At 16, he got a job at Catskills resort with his bandmates.

Besides music, Darin was good at comedy, and after he graduated high school, he attended Hunter College for a short period. He seriously considered a musical career while at the college.

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Portrait of Bobby Darin in September 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

Portrait of Bobby Darin in September 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

Professionally, he launched his career by writing songs for the Aldon Music label. Ultimately, he landed a record contract with Atco, which he signed without hesitation.

While at Atco, he wrote and arranged music for himself and others. Once he started recording, he changed his name to Darin to make it more commercial in American ears.

It was not until 1958 that his fame began when he recorded "Splish Splash" and sold over one million copies. "Splish Splash" was his first hit single, and it was successful, giving him a major boost in his career.

Bobby Darin in "Come September" Universal Pictures 1961 | Photo: Getty Images

Bobby Darin in "Come September" Universal Pictures 1961 | Photo: Getty Images

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The single reached No. 3 on the U.S. pop singles chart and was No. 2 on the R&B Best Sellers chart. The next year, he recorded "Dream Lover," which became a multi-million seller.

He recorded the next single, "Mack the Knife," which went to No. 1 on the charts for nine weeks. The single also sold two million copies and earned him a Grammy Award win for Record of the Year in 1960.

He was also presented the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The success of "Mack the Knife" was so great that it had since been honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

Rock and roll singer Jackie Wilson and singer Bobby Darin at a dinner for the Motion Picture Pioneers Association on November 19, 1962, in New York | Photo: Getty Images

Rock and roll singer Jackie Wilson and singer Bobby Darin at a dinner for the Motion Picture Pioneers Association on November 19, 1962, in New York | Photo: Getty Images

In the late 1950s, Darin also set an all-time attendance record at the Copacabana nightclub while also headlining at the major casinos in Las Vegas.

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Darin was one of the rare singers to have been able to reconcile both the adult and young audiences. Subsequently, he delved into movies and starred in the 1961 romantic comedy "Come September."

In the sixties, he was seen numerous times at casinos in Las Vegas and publicly engaged in the presidential campaign for Robert F. Kennedy.

Bobby Darin as Private Dave Corby on the set of the war film "Hell Is for Heroes" in 1962 | Photo: Getty Images

Bobby Darin as Private Dave Corby on the set of the war film "Hell Is for Heroes" in 1962 | Photo: Getty Images

The assassination of Kennedy was a big blow to Darin, and he took a step back from the entertainment industry. When he came back after a year, he decided to open his label Direction Records.

In the early 1970s, he continued to perform and record, notably with Motown Records. In 1971, he underwent his first heart operation intended to correct certain dysfunctions from his childhood.

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Photo of Bobby Darin | Photo: Getty Images

Photo of Bobby Darin | Photo: Getty Images

By 1972, he seemed recovered enough to run his variety show on NBC called "Dean Martin Presents: The Bobby Darin Amusement Company." He then starred in "The Bobby Darin Show" in 1973.

However, health problems forced him to stop. On December 20, 1973, while undergoing another heart operation, Darin died at 37. Per his will, his body was donated to science for medical research at UCLA.

Bobby Darin on stage circa 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

Bobby Darin on stage circa 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

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THE SECRET OF DARIN'S BIRTH PARENTS

It was not until he was an adult that Darin learned that the woman who raised him, Polly, was truly his grandmother. The person he thought was his sister, was in fact, his mother.

However, the identity of his birth father was never publicly disclosed. His birth mother was Nina Cassotto, who found out that she was pregnant out of wedlock when she was 17 years old.

She decided to keep the baby but made a deal with her widowed mother. They decided that Polly would pretend to be Darin's mother, while his birth mother would pose as his older sister.

Portrait of Bobby Darin circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images

Portrait of Bobby Darin circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images

DARIN'S PRIVATE LIFE AND LEGACY

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In 1960, while filming "Come September," Darin met his wife, Actress Sandra Dee, born Alexandra Zuck. They had both starred in the movie and began their relationship.

Even though she was only 16, Dee and Darin got engaged and eloped on December 1, 1960. On December 16, 1961, they welcomed their son, Dodd Darin.

Bobby Darin celebrates the birthday of his wife, actress Sandra Dee, with their son Dodd, circa 1966 | Photo: Getty Images

Bobby Darin celebrates the birthday of his wife, actress Sandra Dee, with their son Dodd, circa 1966 | Photo: Getty Images

On March 7, 1967, Dee and Darin were divorced. On June 25, 1973, Darin married his second wife, Andrea Yeager, a legal secretary he had met in 1970. In October 1973, the couple divorced.

Dee passed away on February 20, 2005, at 62. She died from the complications of kidney disease. Before her death, she had spent four years getting dialysis.

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In 1990, they inducted Darin into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which his son accepted. In 1999, he was voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. By 2007, he was awarded a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars.

Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee at the 33rd Academy Awards on April 17, 1961, in California | Photo: Getty Images

Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee at the 33rd Academy Awards on April 17, 1961, in California | Photo: Getty Images

On December 12, 2009, he got a Recording Academy awarded for a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, a biopic "Beyond the Sea" was released based on Darin's life.

In 2016, the musical "Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical" revealed the extraordinary story of legendary singer, songwriter, and actor, Darin.

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