Bobby Rydell, who became a pop idol in the 1960s, died at the age of 79 on Apr. 5. The singer’s death was caused by pneumonia, according to Variety, and he was just days away from his 80th birthday. The sad news was confirmed by Bobby’s longtime friend and radio legend, Jerry Blavat, Variety further reported.
“Out of all the kids [from that era], he had the best pipes and was the greatest entertainer. He told the best stories, did the best impersonations and was the nicest guy,” Jerry reported said about his late friend.
Find out more about Bobby and the impact he made in the music industry below.
Bobby rose to fame & became known as a ‘teen idol’ in the 1960s.
Born Robert Ridarelli, he first stepped onto a big stage in 1950, when he won a talent show on the television series Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club as a kid and earned a spot in the cast, where he stayed for several years. He soon changed his name to Bobby Rydell and went on to play in various Philadelphia bands before singing a record contract with Cameo Records. He released a couple of tunes that didn’t chart but in 1959, his song, “Kissin’ Time” made it to the charts and he went on to tour with the Everly Brothers and release more hits like “Wild One” and a cover of “Volare” in 1960.
He stepped into an acting role in the popular film ‘Bye Bye Birdie.’
Bobby played Hugo Peabody in the popular 1963 movie and starred alongside big names like Ann-Margaret and Dick Van Dyke. Although the original role of Hugo in the stage version of the production had no speaking parts, the movie script was rewritten to include some in order to extend Bobby’s participation in it.
Rydell High School in the musical & movie ‘Grease’ was named after him.
The cast in both the 1971 Broadway musical and in the 1978 film referred to the school as “Rydell High” and it became the main location of the popular productions. The name honor signified how much of an impact Bobby had become for his generation and beyond.
‘She Loves You’ by The Beatles was inspired by one of his songs.
Paul McCartney talked about the influence in the 2000 book, The Beatles Anthology. “John (Lennon) and I wrote ‘She Loves You’ together. There was a Bobby Rydell song out at the time and, as often happens, you think of one song when you write another,” he wrote in the book. “We’d planned an ‘answering song’ where a couple of us would sing ‘she loves you’ and the other ones would answer ‘yeah yeah.’ We decided that was a crummy idea but at least we then had the idea of a song called ‘She Loves You’. So we sat in the hotel bedroom for a few hours and wrote it—John and I, sitting on twin beds with guitars.”
Although Paul didn’t give the name of Bobby’s song, Bob Spitz, who wrote The Beatles: The Biography in 2005, claimed the influential tune was 1960’s “Swingin’ School.”
He performed after past health issues.
Bobby’s health started to decline in 2012 and caused him to cancel his Australia tour that year. He underwent major surgery that included a double organ transplant to replace his liver and one kidney at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, the same hospital he would later pass away in. Just six months after the surgery, Bobby returned on stage to perform in Las Vegas for a three-night concert event to a sold out crowd. He continued to perform in several engagements after that and even returned to tour in Australia in 2014.