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Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin    by David Evanier order for
Roman Candle
by David Evanier
Order:  USA  Can
Rodale, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Based on interviews with agents and entertainment/music artists, David Evanier has written a biography of the short life of singer, actor, and songwriter Bobby Darin, born Walden Robert Cassotto in 1936 in New York City's Harlem. His biological mother Nina Cassotto was in her early teens. Darin's grandmother Polly raised him. Darin was a sickly child, who developed a weak heart from rheumatic fever. He was sensitive to pain, and had eye problems, as well as digestive dysfunction. Aware of his illness, Bobby was determined to make it to the top of his career at a young age, and did just that! He passed quickly from one school-grade level to another with a Mensa level IQ of 137. During his many bedridden days, Darin read avidly - poetry, history, and fiction.

The book follows Darin's career in rhythm and blues, rock, country, folk, jazz, and swing music, to his death at age thirty seven. He mastered seven musical instruments, composed 167 songs, and performed exacting celebrity impressions, e.g. of comedian Jimmy Durante and singer Ray Charles. Darin supported many upcoming artists, and gave lyrics to other performers, e.g. Wayne Newton's Danke Schoen. Among Darin's successful hits were Splish Splash, Sunday in New York (played at Yankee Stadium baseball games), Dream Weaver, and the Grammy-winning Mack the Knife. The latter immortalized his talent, selling two million copies in 1959.

Darin performed in nightclubs including The Flamingo, The Sands and The Hilton in Las Vegas; the Cloister in Los Angeles, and the Copacabana in New York City. He starred in 13 motion pictures (wrote the music for some films), and was nominated for an Oscar in the 1963 film Captain Newman M.D.. Bobby's awards include a Grammy for Best Record of the Year, and Best New Artist. After his death, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll of Fame. When compared to Frank Sinatra, Bobby said, 'I don't want to be a second Frank Sinatra. I want to be a first Bobby Darin.' Bobby Darin achieved his gaol, 'to be remembered as a human being and as a great performer.'.

David Evanier introduces a celebrity from the 1950's-1970's generation to today's audiences. He delivers a sensitive, moving portrait of the legendary artist, timing the book's release to coincide with the Beyond the Sea movie about Darin, starring Kevin Spacey. The text is heavily laden with quotes from agents and fellow performers that I found disruptive. I also felt that the author's light coverage of the basics of Darin's life and music were disappointing. Overall though, readers will find Roman Candle informative, albeit brief in family life and long in music history.

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