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Bobby Rydell Delivers That Old Black Magic!

For the last dozen or so years, I have been asked to DJ at least one night at the Lincoln Center’s excellent Midsummer Night Swing series of outdoor events. Each event consists of a DJ, a dance instructor to teach the proper steps for that night’s theme, and a live act, usually a big band of some sort. I was asked to do so again for the July 6 show.

Some of the acts I have DJ’d for include Chubby Checker and a small boogie woogie combo led by Charlie Watts. On July 6th, the headliner was sixties teen idol Bobby Rydell.

From 1959 to 1963, Rydell realeased more than two dozen teen pop hits, including “We Got Love,” “Swingin’ School” and “Forget Him.” But Bobby Rydell—much like ALL the “Bobbies” of the time: Bobby Darin, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee—he aspired to being a vocalist in the mold of Frank Sinatra. (Even the “anti-Bobby,” Bob Dylan, eventually had such aspirations!). Thus, ably backed by Philadelphia’s City Rhythm Orchestra, Mr. Rydell presented a set of mostly songs from the great American songbook, sung in a very Sinatra-like manner.

If you are familiar with Bobby Rydell from just a handful of teen hits (“Kissin’ Time,” “I Dig Girls,” “Ding-A-Ling”) you may scoff at the idea. Don’t. Mr. Rydell still has a commanding voice and he was able to carry this off much, much better than any lounge singer. Although he did not sing any of our favorites (“The Fish,” “The Cha Cha Cha,” and his cool version of The Kinks’ “When I See That Girl of Mine”), he did perform “Wild One,” “Sway” and ended his portion of the show with “Volare.”

After the show, I was able to shake his hand and get his autograph on one of his picture sleeves, owned by the ARChive.

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