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Singer-actor Bobby Rydell (1942-2022)


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Bobby Rydell, the 1960s teen idol and pop singer whose career was overshadowed by the "British Invasion," died Tuesday. He would have observed his 80th birthday in two weeks.

According to a statement posted by his marketing and event coordinator Maria Novey, Rydell (real name: Robert Ridarelli) died of complications from pneumonia at a hospital in a suburb of his hometown of Philadelphia. Rydell had credited a 2012 kidney and liver transplant with extending his life.

Between 1959 and 1964, Rydell had nearly three dozen Top 40 singles -- and helped inspire a hit song by The Beatles.

Rydell’s childhood sweetheart and first wife, Camille, died in 2003.

He is survived by his second wife, Linda Hoffman, whom he married in 2009, along with son Robert Ridarelli, daughter Jennifer Dulin, and five grandchildren.

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In 1960, Rydell had a No. 4 hit on Billboard's pop chart with "Volare," an English-language  cover of the Italian singer-songwriter Domenico Modugno's 1958 success that won Record of the Year and Song of the Year honors at the first-ever Grammy Awards in May 1959.

Also released in 1960, "Swingin' School" was a No. 5 hit on Billboard's pop chart and it was featured on the soundtrack of the screen drama "Because They're Young," which starred Dick Clark, Tuesday Weld, Michael Callan, Warren Berlinger, Roberta Shore, Doug McClure and Victoria Shaw. 

Rydell co-starred with Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Ann-Margret, Maureen Stapleton, Paul Lynde and Jesse Pearson  in the 1963 screen version of "Bye Bye Birdie." Directed by George Sidney ("Anchors Aweigh," "The Harvey Girls"), the film was based on the 1961 Tony Award-winning musical inspired by Elvis Presley's induction into the U.S. Army in 1958. Rydell played Hugo Peabody, the boyfriend of a teen Ohio schoolgirl (Ann-Margret) chosen to give drafted rock 'n' roll idol Conrad Birdie (Pearson) a live goodbye kiss on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Van Dyke, reprising his Tony-winning stage role, played a songwriter who must come up with a final song for Birdie. Along for the ride was his longtime fiancée (Leigh) and his clinging vine of a mother (Stapleton). Sullivan appeared as himself.

Hugo was a minor character in the original stage version of "Bye Bye Birdie," but director Sidney beefed up the role for Rydell.


Released in 1963, Rydell's "Forget Him" was a No. 4 hit on Billboard's pop chart. It also was a popular song in the United Kingdom. Sir Paul McCartney credited the tune. written by Tony Hatch, as an influence for The Beatles' 1963 hit "She Loves You." Interestingly, it was the rise of The Beatles and other British groups in 1964 that ended the era of Rydell and other teen idols. But he had developed a loyal following and continued to perform for decades.

The high school in the stage musical "Grease" (and in the 1978 screen musical and its 1982 sequel) was named after Rydell. Pictured below right (from the first movie): John Travolta as Danny Zuko of The T-Birds gang and Sid Caesar as Rydell High's Coach Calhoun.

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Rydell was portrayed by Von Lewis in the 2018 drama "Green Book,"  a commercial success that was named Best Picture at the 91st annual Academy Awards. Based on a true story and set in the year 1962, the film starred Viggo Mortensen as Tony "The Lip" Vallelonga, an Italian-American bouncer from New York City. He temporarily served as a chauffeur and bodyguard for the African-American pianist Dr. Don Shirley (portrayed by Best Supporting Actor winner Mahershala Ali). A friendship developed between the two dissimilar characters during a road trip through the segregated South.




Bobby Rydell passed on. What a shame! He was the most talented of the 50s and early 60s teen idols. Well…maybe a tie with Bobby Darin.
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Swingin' School won't be the same without Bobby. I liked how he good-naturedly played Ann-Margret's nerdy-but-faithful boyfriend Hugo in Bye Bye Birdie. I still have his album Rydell at The Copa and, though he maybe had a little of the feel of a kid getting ahead of himself, he still turned in fun set of standards and his own particular brand of pop. He was in great company at the Cameo-Parkway label, which turned out some of my favorites dance hits. R.I.P., Bobby. I'll be listening.

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