His friendship with co-writer Don Kirshner resulted in his first single, "My First Love". A meeting with Connie Francis' manager George Scheck led to a prestigious television appearance on the Tommy Dorsey television show and a contract with Decca Records. An unsuccessful attempt at a hit with a cover version of Lonnie Donegan's "Rock Island Line" was followed in 1958 by a Pop novelty tune called "Splish Splash". Darin's quirky vocal ensured that his song was a worldwide hit, although he was outsold in Britain by a rival version from comedian Charlie Drake. Later that same year, he found chart success with his second hit, "Dream Lover", which went to number one in the UK and number two in the US. His next single, "Early In The Morning" was a flop as was its successor, "Mighty Mighty", but the intervening Darin solo release, "Queen Of The Hop", sold a million copies and reached number nine in America..
After another failed single called "Plain Jane", Darin told American Bandstand's Dick Clark of his plans to record a song from the musical, The Threepenny Opera, called "Mack The Knife". Clark did his best to discourage Darin from the dramatic change of direction from Rock 'n' Roll to the Jazz-like tempo of "Mack". Darin's choice proved to be a good one as "Mack The Knife" went on to be a chart-topping million-seller and effectively raised Darin to new status as a serious singer, comparing favorably with Frank Sinatra. The tune would go on to become Bobby's signature song and won the 1959 Grammy for Record Of The Year and Best New Artist. "Mack The Knife" was number one on the Billboard charts for nine weeks in 1959 and is one of the biggest selling records in history. The song itself was not without controversy though, as one New York radio station banned the song after it was blamed for a series of local stabbings.
Darin's hit treatments of "Beyond The Sea" (#6), "Clementine" (#21), "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey?" (#19), "Artificial Flowers" (#20), "Lazy River" (#14) and "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby" (#5) revealed his ability to tackle a variety of material and continued his string of hit records. He appeared in Las Vegas with George Burns in 1959, and at the age of 23, was performing at many major night clubs in the country such as The Flamingo, The Sands and The Hilton in Las Vegas, the Cloister in Los Angeles and the Copacabana in New York. Bobby not only sang, but did impressions and played several instruments in his concerts. He was popular with adults and teenagers alike at the clubs, breaking attendance records and performing to standing room only crowds. On December 1st, 1960, he married actress Sandra Dee, who was his co-star in the film Come September. They had one son, Dodd Mitchell Darin, born on December 16th, 1961. The hits kept coming in 1962 and '63 with "Irresistible You" (#15), "Things" (#3), "You're The Reason I'm Living" (#3) and "18 Yellow Roses" (#10) among the most successful.
Bobby proved that he was a talented actor and appeared in thirteen motion pictures and was nominated for an Oscar for his outstanding performance in the film Captain Newman M.D. in 1963. For that role he won a French Film Critics Award for Best Actor. In 1962, he had contracts with Universal and Paramount studios, made a total of five motion pictures and was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Male Newcomer, for his role in Pressure Point. He also composed the score and theme to four of the thirteen motion pictures he acted in, such as If A Man Answers(1962), The Lively Set (1964), That Funny Feeling (1965) and Gunfight In Abilene (1967). Bobby's records also included Folk and Country music and his recording of the Tim Hardin classic "If A Were A Carpenter" in 1966 opened up a whole new phase of his career when it peaked at #8.
Although his professional life was flying high, his personal life was less than happy. Bobby and Sandra were divorced on March 7th, 1967 and in 1968, when he was considering a career in politics, Bobby discovered his "mother" Polly was actually his Grandmother and his "sister" Nina was really his mother. This painful revelation altered him for the rest of his life. In 1968 and 1969, disturbed by the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy, whom he campaigned for, Darin wrote and recorded two protest albums of Alternative Rock music and found a new legion of fans in this area. Bobby also appeared on many major television programs and had his own NBC variety television show in 1972 and 1973.
An uncanny knack for perfection and love for life were also evident as Darin worked behind the scenes in show business. He owned a highly successful music publishing business and gave of himself to help others. He was responsible for mentoring Wayne Newton and getting Newton his start in the recording industry by giving him the song "Danke Schoen". Bobby also was the Ambassador for the Heart Fund for the American Heart Association for many years and constantly gave to many other charities.
Darin's life was cut short on December 20th, 1973, when he died following his second open heart surgery at the age of 37, at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Hollywood. As in his life, he gave to others following his death, by leaving instructions for his body to be donated to UCLA's Medical Center for research purposes.
Bobby was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, which his son Dodd accepted on his behalf. Today, many more of his recordings are resurfacing on CD reissues, along with his electrifying live performances on video. The story of his life was the subject of a successful PBS documentary and as a motion picture. This, along with his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, also in 1999, prove that Bobby Darin's important contributions to music remain fresh and will stand the test of time. In December 2007, Darin was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame and on December 13th, 2009, the Recording Academy announced that Bobby Darin would receive a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 Grammy Awards ceremony.