Sammy Davis, Jr., regarded by many as the “Greatest Entertainer in the World,” said that the one person he would never follow on stage was Bobby Darin. He was that good.
An immensely talented and versatile person, Bobby Darin is best known as a singer who performed in a range of music genres, including jazz, pop, rock’n’roll, folk, swing and country. But he was also a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor of film and television.
He was the only actor ever to have been signed to five major Hollywood film studios and his nightclub act was a major draw on the Las Vegas strip. He has stars on the Las Vegas “Walk of Stars” and the “Hollywood Walk of Fame.” He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The drive behind his amazing success was his poor health. He was not expected to live beyond his teens; he always felt he was living on borrowed time, but he kept it a secret from his fans. They would have been surprised to learn that during the last few years of his life, he was often administered oxygen during and after his performances on stage and screen.
Darin suffered from poor health his entire life. He was frail as an infant and, beginning at age eight, was stricken with recurring bouts of rheumatic fever that left him with a seriously weakened heart. In January 1971, he underwent his first heart surgery in an attempt to correct some of the heart damage he had lived with since childhood. Two artificial heart valves were implanted in his heart. He spent most of that year recovering from the surgery.
In 1973, after failing to take antibiotics to protect his heart before a dental visit, Darin developed sepsis, an overwhelming systemic blood infection. This further weakened his body and affected one of his heart valves. On December 11, he checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for another round of open-heart surgery to repair the two artificial heart valves he had received in January 1971. On the evening of December 19, a five-man surgical team worked for over six hours to repair his damaged heart. Shortly after the surgery ended in the early morning hours of December 20, 1973, Darin died in the recovery room without regaining consciousness. He was 37 years old.
There were no funeral arrangements; Darin’s last wish in his will was that his body be donated to science for medical research. His body was transferred to the UCLA Medical Center shortly after his death.
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