Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Sunday Dose of Darin - Two of a Kind

“I have a rock and roll hit, that makes me one of a thousand other guys. Now I’ve got to prove I can sing.”

This week, let’s go all “Behind the Music-ish,” and take a look at the famous and infamous supposed Frank Sinatra reference that kept these two Italian-American, lower middle class, New York area music legends - who really had so much in common - from ever performing together in what could have been an unforgettable, magical, musical moment. Obviously, it’s purely conjecture to suggest that without this flap that pleasing pairing would have ever come to be, but it is definitely interesting to imagine. And speaking of ”unforgettable,“ as they covered so much of the same material and even shared an arranger in Billy May, one would think that current technology would certainly allow a Natalie Cole/Nat King Cole “from the great beyond” type of duet. But for the sake of artistry and musical purity it’s probably best to leave that as something only John Edward can experience.

November 29th, 1959 was an important night in Bobby Darin’s career. That evening marked the first time that the Grammy Awards were ever aired on television, and on that important, premiere telecast Bobby not only performed “Mack the Knife,” but was honored with two awards - one for Record of the Year and another for Best New Artist. Afterwards, at a post-awards cocktail party, when encountered by a UPI columnist, Darin reportedly said, “I hope to surpass Frank in everything he’s done.” Those simple words, which he always denied ever actually saying, set off a firestorm in the entertainment industry, followed Darin until his death and began a never-resolved feud with Sinatra. Maybe.
That notorious quote was never verified as being true, but Sinatra and Darin are on record speaking about each other, so perhaps their own words can help clarify the situation.

Bobby Darin -
“Everyone wants to grow up and be an adult, and so do I, and I want to have an adult audience, but I know that the teenagers of today will be adults tomorrow… Maybe when they get older and turn to Sinatra, as everyone seems to do eventually, then, they’ll like me too.”

“I don’t want to be a second Frank Sinatra. I want to be a first Bobby Darin.”

“Frank Sinatra is the greatest living lyric interpreter.”

“The biggest single fallacy that has been built up about me as that I think the sun rises and sets on Frank Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra -
“I sing in saloons. Bobby Darin does my prom dates.”

“He’s got it all to himself. He’s the best because it’s a whole new generation.”

There you have it, contradictory proof positive that we will probably never know what they truly thought of each other, or if it really even mattered beyond being a bit of gossipy press, public relations and Hollywood lore. In 1984, Frank Sinatra did cover “Mack the Knife” - some would say, unwisely - on his “L.A. is My Lady” album, and referenced Darin in the lyrics. So, if there ever really were bad feelings between the two, one would imagine that, 11 years after Bobby’s death, Sinatra was no longer harboring a grudge.

This Day in Darin History - On October 3rd, 1958, Bobby Darin began touring with the fall edition of “The Biggest Show of Stars,” with stops all across the country including Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and more. Among the other performers on the bill were Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Dion and the Belmonts, The Coasters, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.

Why “Two of a Kind,” as this week’s selection? Although already an excellent duet with the song’s co-writer, Johnny Mercer, it would seem a natural number for that fantasy recording with Frank Sinatra. So, from the 1961 Bobby Darin/Johnny Mercer album of the same name, with arrangements by Billy May - “Two of a Kind.”

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