Bobby Rydell was a rock and roll singer and actor who was a “teen idol” in the 1960s. He recorded 34 Top-40 hit-records and sold more than 25 million records, including Volare, Wild One, We Got Love, Kissin’ Time, Swingin’ School, Wildwood Days, and Forget Him. In 1963, he starred with Ann Margaret in the musical film, Bye Bye Birdie.
Rydell had a long history of alcohol abuse that destroyed his liver and kidneys. On July 9, 2012, at age 70, he received a life-saving liver and kidney transplant and six months later, he was singing again in Las Vegas. To avoid rejection of his kidney and liver transplants, he had to take drugs to suppress his immune system, and on April 5, 2022, 10 years after his transplants, he died of pneumonia, an infection in his lungs.
Early Life and Rise to Fame
Robert Louis Ridarelli was born in April 1942 into the poor, tough Italian neighborhood of south Philadelphia. He started playing the drums at a very young age and at age nine, he won a TV talent contest and had his first paid performance which led to several years on the local TV Teen Club. In 1957, when he was 15, his father lost a part of his middle finger in a work accident and received $3000 as a settlement for the accident. Instead of spending all of the money on himself, his father bought his son a very expensive ($525), oyster-pearl Ludwig drum kit that cost more than all of the furniture in their house.
Soon afterwards, a band called “Rocco and the Saints” was booked to open for the name band at a club in Somers Point, N.J., called Bayshores. The band’s drummer was sick so Frankie Avalon asked Rydell to play the drums and sing a few songs. The bass player for the main band was Frankie Day who liked Rydell and offered to manage his career. He responded, “Talk to my dad.” In 1961 at age 19, he was the youngest performer to headline the Copacabana in New York City and his father resigned from his job after 22 years as a foreman in Philadelphia, to manage his son’s out-of-town engagements. His career continued to thrive, peaking in the 1960s, with recordings, concerts and many appearances in television series for decades. In the 1980s, he formed a trio called The Golden Boys with two other former teenage heart throbs, Frankie Avalon and Fabian Forte, and they continued to tour internationally.
Marriages and Health Problems
In 1968 at age 26, he married Camille Quattrone, who died of cancer 35 years later. This sent him into a major depression that he treated by drinking excess amounts of alcohol. In 2009, he married Linda Hoffman but continued to drink. In 2012 he was told
that he needed an organ transplant because he was in liver and kidney failure. He gave up alcohol and received a liver and a single kidney transplant, and became a major spokesman for organ donation. Six months after his transplants, he sang on stage in Las Vegas for a three night engagement to a sold out audience, and then continued on The Golden Boys‘ international tour circuit. Ten years after his liver and kidney transplants, on April 5, 2022, and at the age of 79, Bobby Rydell died from an infection in his lungs at Jefferson Abington Hospital.
Lessons from Bobby Rydell
• Excess alcohol ca n destroy your liver and kidneys. Alcoholism is a disease in which a person does not have to drink, but once they start, they often cannot stop and keep on drinking. Therefore the treatment is to never be around alcohol. An alcoholic should try never to have alcohol in their house, avoid friends who drink and never go to places where alcohol is served.
• If you get an organ transplant, you will be put on drugs to suppress your immune system so you do not reject your new organs. Drugs to protect the transplanted organs also suppress your ability to recognize and kill invading germs, so they markedly increase your risk for life-threatening infections.
April 26, 1942 – April 5, 2022