Bobby Rydell, '50s & '60s Teen Heartthrob, Dies at 79
Bobby Rydell, a teen heartthrob of the early rock era, died on April 5, his friend announced. He was 79 and had battled non-COVID pneumonia.
Bob Kelly at FOX29 reported the passing, noting Rydell was just shy of his 80th birthday.
Sad news to pass along, good friend Bobby Rydell passed away this morning. He would have been 80 years old on April 26th. This pic was taken when he visited with us on Good Day back in 2017. Let’s all play Wildwood Days in his honor!! pic.twitter.com/qlrr9LsKXR
Rydell had survived a dual-organ (liver and kidney) transplant in 2012 and heart-bypass surgery in 2013.
Born in Philadelphia, Rydell achieved overwhelming chart success as a mere teen, striking gold with songs like "Kissin' Time" (1959), "We Got Love" (1959), his #2 smash "Wild One" (1960), "Volare" (1960), "Sway" (1960), "Good Time Baby" (1961), "That Old Black Magic" (1961), "I'll Never Dance Again" (1962), "The Cha-Cha-Cha" (1962), "Forget Him" (1964), and many more.
According to Paul McCartney, "Swingin' School" (1960) inspired him and John Lennon to write "She Loves You" (1963).
Rydell's name was borrowed by the '50s-themed show "Grease," later an iconic movie, for the name of the high school where all the action takes place. Unlike some other stars whose names have been winkingly referenced in popular culture, Rydell saw it as a "total honor," noting that instead of Rydell High, the school could just as easily have been named after Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, or a number of others.
In 1963, Rydell played Hugo Peabody in the big-screen version of the Broadway musical "Bye Bye Birdie," which was a hit that helped establish Ann-Margret as a major star. In spite of its success, he rarely acted again. His last credit was playing himself in the Robert De Niro starrer "The Comedian" (2016).
Though his final Top 40 hit came nearly 60 years ago —the British Invasion left him in the dust — Rydell performed live continuously, including extensively with fellow former teen idols Fabian and Frankie Avalon.
In 2016, he published his memoir "Bobby Rydell: Teen Idol on the Rocks," which chronicled his drinking problem.
Rydell was preceded in death in 2003 by his wife Camille, who had been his high school sweetheart. He is survived by his second wife, Linda J. Hoffman, his two children with Camille, and five grandchildren.