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Music

Stephen King leads tributes to pop icon Bobby Rydell

1960s pop singer Bobby Rydell has died following pneumonia complications in a hospital in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is believed that his death was unrelated to Covid-19. Although his star dimmed in later years, his influence was resolute in the 1960s, as no less a luminary than Paul McCartney says ‘She Loves You’ was inspired by his ballad, ‘Forget Him’.

Rydell was a drummer as well as a singer, which likely explains why there was such a danceable quality to his work. Rydell was also well known for ‘Volare’, ‘We Got Love’, ‘Swingin’ School’ and ‘Wild One’, which increased his profile sufficiently to appear in Bye Bye Birdie beside actors Janet Leigh and Dick Van Dyke. His performance of ‘Volare’ impressed Perry Como so much that the television host declared him an “honorary Italian”.

Carrie author Stephen King was one of the first to pay tribute to the heartthrob of the 1960s. In his tweet, the author said that Rydell was “the most talented of the ’50s and early ’60s teen idols”. Dean Martin’s daughter Deana admitted that she was “heartbroken”, while Burton Cummings considered him one of his “heroes”.

Rydell got his lucky break at the youthful age of nine when he appeared on the talent show Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club, from which he springboarded into Rocco and the Saints with fellow Philadelphia musician Frankie Avalon. His popularity was immediate, leading to tributes and homages springing up throughout his lifetime.

The high school in Grease, its film adaptation, and the film’s sequel Grease 2, the high school was known as “Rydell High” after Rydell. Rydell credited his father with his success: “If I had any talent whatsoever, my father was the first one to see it. Because I used to mimic everyone I saw on TV, and I started singing at a very early age. And when I was around seven or eight years old, my father started taking me around to nightclubs, and he would ask the club owners, ‘Is it okay for my son to get up, sing a couple of songs, and do some impersonations?'”.