Early rock ‘n’ roll heartthrob Bobby Rydell, who was a ’50s teenage singing sensation with a beloved following and career that lasted more than six decades, died April 5, 2022. According to his spokesperson, Maria Novey, the cause of death was from complications from pneumonia. He was 79.
Known for hit songs including “Volare,” “Wildwood Days,” “The Cha-Cha-Cha,” “Swinging School” and “Wild One,” Rydell had 34 top 40 hits and sold more than 25 million records.
As a teenager, Rydell played with some local Philadelphia bands and landed a recording contract. At 18, after finding success with the song “Kissin Time,” he toured with The Everly Brothers and The Crickets. The bestselling “We Got Love” and “Wild One,” followed selling a million copies each.
Ever talented, Rydell also thrived as an actor. In 1963, he starred in the film version of Bye Bye Birdie with Ann-Margaret and Dick Van Dyke. His career as a singer lasted decades. He was so beloved that the high school in both the musical and movie Grease was named “Rydell High” in his honor.
Born Robert Louis Ridarelli in Philadelphia, Penn., on April 26, 1942, he took up the drums when he was 9 years old. In fact, three years before, he told his father that he hoped to play like drumming legend Gene Krupa. In 1950, he was cast in the TV series Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club. He ultimately changed his name name to Bobby Rydell.
Paul McCartney credited a Bobby Rydell song, he didn’t name the exact one, for helping to inspire the “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” answering lyric in “She Loves You.” After decades, his fans remained loyal to him as he continued to tour. “God bless them,” he said of his fans in an interview with The Morning Call. “…they want to reflect back to those specific years where, yeah, Bobby Rydell was a teenage idol. And that’s a nice thing to have after so many, many years.”
In his 2016 book, Bobby Rydell, Teen Idol on the Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances, he shared his triumphs and also his struggles with alcoholism, the death of his first wife of 35 years from breast cancer and his 2012 liver and kidney transplant.
With all he endured, he remained grateful. “I can’t complain at all about my career. You know, it’s had its ups and downs, its peaks and valleys, so on, so forth,” he told The Morning Call. “But I’ve survived through all of that, and I’m continuing to do what I really enjoy doing.”
Rydell is survived by his wife, Linda J. Hoffman, children Robert Ridarelli and Jennifer Dulin and five grandchildren.,