Bobby Rydell, the 1960s teen pop idol and star of Bye Bye Birdie, died Tuesday (April 5) following a battle with pneumonia. He was 79 years old, just days away from turning 80.
Born Robert Louis Ridarelli in 1942 in Philadelphia, Rydell got his start in entertainment in 1950, when he won a talent show on the television series Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club. He went on to become the program's regular drummer, and later began playing with some local bands.
In 1959, Rydell released his first hit song, “Kissin’ Time.” From there, Rydell had a number of standout hits, including his follow-up single “We Got Love,” his highest-charting track “Wild One,” 1960's “Volare,” the 1962 song “The Cha-Cha-Cha,” and 1964's “Forget Him.” In total, he had 34 singles chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
In Bye Bye Birdie - released in 1963 - he played Hugo Peabody: the high school sweetheart of Ann-Margret's Kim McAfee. The plot revolved around a teenager (McAfee) being randomly chosen to get a goodbye kiss from an Elvis Presley-style rock ‘n’ roll singer, Conrad Birdie, before he leaves for the Army.
By the mid-60s, the British Invasion had arrived, and Rydell found limited success in music in the late 60s and 70s. However, Rydell’s legacy remained firm: in the 1971 stage musical Grease and its blockbuster 1978 film adaptation, the school attended by Danny, Sandy, and the rest of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies was named Rydell High in his honor.
“It was so nice to know that the high school [in Grease] was named after me,” he said during a 2016 interview. “And I said, ‘Why me?’ It could have been Anka High, Presley High, Everly High, Fabian High, Avalon High. And they came up with Rydell High, and once again, total honor.”
Rydell continued to tour throughout the remainder of his life, often with Frankie Avalon and Fabian, performing under the name The Golden Boys. In 2016, he published his autobiography, titled Bobby Rydell: Teen Idol On The Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances.
Rydell was a longtime resident of Penn Valley, Pennsylvania and lived in the same house from 1963 to 2013. He died in Abington Township in Pennsylvania. Rydell was married to his first wife, Camille Quattrone Ridarelli, from 1968 until her death in 2003. He is survived by his second wife, Linda Hoffman, and his two children.
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Article Image: Black and white photo of Bobby Rydell singing at "The Perry Como Show" in 1961. (Friedman-Abeles [Available through Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.)