Bobby Rydell, '60s teen idol and Bye Bye Birdie star, dies at 79

Bobby Rydell, who rose to fame in the late-'50s and early-'60s as a popular teen idol and actor, died April 5 at age 79, EW has confirmed. Rydell died of non-COVID-related pneumonia complications.

Born Robert Louis Ridarelli in Philadelphia in 1942, he changed his name to Bobby Rydell as a teenager when he began performing. He released his first hit single "Kissin' Time" in 1959, and the following year, he scored several more hits including "Wild One," "Swingin' School," and his covers of standards "Volare" and "Sway." At 19, Rydell became the youngest headliner at New York's famous Copacabana nightclub.

Bobby Rydell
Bobby Rydell

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Throughout his career, Rydell racked up 34 Top 100 hits and sold over 25 million albums, making him one of the top five acts of his era. A testament to his popularity at the time, Paul McCartney and John Lennon modeled "She Loves You" after Rydell's "Swingin' School." With the rise of The Beatles and the British Invasion, however, Rydell and similar standards singers had to find success off the charts.

In 1963, he made his film debut in the musical Bye Bye Birdie starring opposite Ann-Margret as her sweetheart Hugo Peabody. After the '60s, Rydell's musical output dwindled but he continued to play nightclubs and the Vegas circuit and toured extensively, forming the Golden Boys stage show with contemporary crooners Frankie Avalon and Fabian.

Rydell's name got a resurgence thanks to both the 1971 stage musical Grease and its 1978 film adaptation, in which Danny and Sandy's high school was named after him. And in the 2018 film Green Book, Rydell was portrayed by actor Von Lewis.

Rydell is survived by his wife, Linda J. Hoffman, son Robert Ridarelli, daughter Jennifer Dulin, and his five grandchildren.

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