Bobby Vee, the 1960s teen idol who sang the hits ‘Rubber Ball’ and ‘Take Good Care of My Baby,’ died on Monday at the age of 73.
Bobby Vee was born Robert Velline. His passing was confirmed to The Associated Press by his son, Jeff Velline. The singer had been suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease. “It’s kind of a blessing,” said Dr. rick Rysavy to the St. Cloud Times. “There was no reason for him to suffer any longer.”
1. The singer was born in Fargo, North Dakota, and ultimately moved back to neighboring Minnesota, settling in St. Cloud in 1980 along with his family. Vee and his family frequently helped the community with charity events, including the ‘Rockin’ Round the Clock’ fundraisers for the local Cathedral High School.
In fact, Vee was so appreciated in the community that his life became the subject of a play produced as the St. Paul History Theater.
2. His career took off in part because of a tragedy on February 3, 1959, when a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson crashed into a field in Iowa, killing everyone on board.
Fifteen year old Bobby Vee took the stage for the artists that night, a move that would help turn him into one of the most popular teenage sensations of the era. “It’s almost like a rags-to-riches story,” says playwright Bob Beverage. Though it was the day that launched Vee’s career, it is known as “The Day The Music Died.”
In 2004, speaking to the Star Tribune, he spoke about that fateful night:
“There are so many synchronicities to the Buddy Holly connection that spread out all over my career. That has been absolutely enjoyable, because I was and still am such a fan.”
In was very much a show must go on situation. It really was an exercise in mixed emotions. But we had to put that aside and get out there and perform, which was frightening and thrilling at once.”
3. Bobby Vee played a role in starting the career of a man who, just days ago, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Bob Dylan. Dylan was also from the Midwest, hailing from Duluth, Minnesota, the same state that Vee and his family ultimately settled.
Dylan met Vee in a record store in Vee’s hometown of Fargo, introducing himself as Elston Gunnn, and claiming that he had just returned from playing with Conway Twitty. He heard that Vee’s band was looking for pianist and impressed young Bobby. It was learned later that Dylan could only playin the key of C.
The two would meet again in another record store in Greenwich Village, New York during one of Bobby’s tours when Dylan had established himself as a folk singer. Vee later recalled:
“I was walking down the street. There was a record store there, and there was an album in the front window. And it said, ‘Bob Dylan.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Looks a lot like Elston Gunnn.”
Bob Dylan did not like seeing the direction that Vee had taken with his career. He wrote in his memoir ‘Chronicles: Volume One’ that “He’d become a crowd pleaser in the pop world. As for myself, I had nothing against pop songs, but the definition of pop was changing.”
4. Bobby married Karen Bergen on December 28, 1963. The couple was married for 51 years before Karen Bergen passed away from kidney failure on August 3, 2015. The couple met at a dance at the armory in Bergen’s hometown of Detroit Lakes in 1960. At the time, Karen was looking into studying early childhood development and Bobby was already a roc star.
Bobby and Karen had four children: Jeffery Robert Velline (born January 3, 1965), Thomas Paul Velline (born October 25, 1966), Robert Bryon Velline (born August 4, 1967), and Jennifer Joanne Velline (born May 31, 1972). They also have five grandchildren.
5. Vee was an influence on the Beatles as well. The Beatles even performed his hit ‘Take Good Care of My Baby’ during their Decca audition in January 1962.
In 1999, Paul McCartney asked Bobby to go to London and New York to help celebrate Buddy Holly’s music.