Reviews

Bobby Darin: Beyond the Song [DVD]

Steve Horowitz

This cheap and easy 'documentary' doesn't go very deep into Darin's biography, psyche, or contribution to the arts, but it nonetheless contains some enjoyable footage.


Bobby Darin

Beyond the Song [DVD]

Label: Kultur
US Release Date: 2005-02-22
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Despite the title, this DVD of Bobby Darin doesn't go very deep into the man's biography, psyche, or contribution to the arts. Instead, it's a cheap and easy compilation of performance clips of Darin, on television and on-stage, interspersed with interviews with contemporaries like Andy Williams and the ageless George Burns, and Darin's relatives. Darin's son and brother participate, which suggests that this is the clean, authorized biography of the troubled entertainer. That said, Beyond the Song is still a pretty cool DVD, with lots of entertaining footage of Darin and other celebrities.

The basic, somewhat bizarre, facts of Darin's career are well documented. Darin was born Walden Robert Cassotto in 1936 and suffered from a childhood illness that he knew would considerably shorten his lifespan. This fact spurred him on to early success and by his early twenties, Darin had already recorded Top Ten rock 'n' roll hits like "Splish Splash", "Dreamlover", and "Beyond the Sea" (all included here). Then Darin expanded his horizons to become a Las Vegas performer and appeal to a wider, adult audience. His rendition of "Mack the Knife" (also included here) from The Threepenny Opera became his first and only number one record. From there Darin went to Hollywood and earned popular and critical praise for his acting (including an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor) in movies like Captain Newman M.D. (with Gregory Peck) and Pressure Point (with Sidney Poitier). He met and married his co-star from another picture, Sandra Dee, and was considered the heir apparent to Frank Sinatra as the master of hip.

Darin chose to become an adult entertainer during a time of a great youth movement. The black and white footage here of Darin performing with luminaries from older generations like Jimmy Durante and Judy Garland is great -- Darin does a dead-on imitation of Durante and coaxes the obviously not quite all-there Garland into using her pipes -- and reveals Darin's connections to past traditions more than his being in the present vogue.

Then something happened. Maybe it was just a cultural shift. But Darin was not content with wide mainstream success. He became an introspective singer-songwriter, concerned with personal and political activism. Darin's son suggests much of this grew out of a shock in his private life. It was during this time period that Darin learned that the woman he thought was his sister was his mother and the woman he thought was his mother was his grandmother. Darin starts to dress differently, in blue denim instead of a tux, and sheds his Vegas-style image for long hair, sideburns, and a moustache. Darin becomes an active supporter of Robert Kennedy and campaigns with him.

This is where the DVD is most deficient, lacking footage of Darin performing during this period, which arguably was his greatest musically. While Darin's version of Tim Hardin's "If I Was a Carpenter" became a hit, less well-known but equally as wonderful are Darin's versions of Hardin's "Black Sheep Boy" and "Red Balloon" and Mick Jagger/Keith Richard's "Back Street Girl". The mid- to late '60s Darin is conspicuously absent.

The DVD does include a great deal of footage from a 1973 color TV special. As the interviews with personalities like Dick Clark make clear, everyone knew Darin was gravely ill at the time, but they also knew Darin would never slow down. Darin wears a bright blue tux and is back doing his Vegas shtick. Clark points out that Darin shakes his hands in rhythm frequently to keep his circulation going because he is so unhealthy. Watching Darin perform is heartrending. He's still smiling, giving it all in the old show biz tradition, but Darin's clearly hurting. Darin died backstage at 37 years-of-age after a show before the year was over. Tony Orlando offers a touching quasi-eulogy as he tells the story of wanting to be Bobby Darin. Orlando shows how he copied Darin's style at the beginning of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon", undulating Darin-like "I've done my time, I'm coming home" and narrates how Roger Miller told him he did the same thing at the beginning of "King of the Road". Orlando does Miller doing Darin -- "Trailers for sale or rent" -- in the same swinging voice. This delightfully illustrates how pervasive Darin's influence has been on modern popular music.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.