Tributes paid to Bye Bye Birdie star Bobby Rydell, who dies aged 79

Rydell, who was considered a teen idol in the 1960s, has passed away at the age of 79 (Associated Press/PA)
Rydell, who was considered a teen idol in the 1960s, has passed away at the age of 79 (Associated Press/PA)

The singer and actor Bobby Rydell, who was known as a heartthrob of early rock and roll, has died at the age of 79.

Rydell died of complications from pneumonia at a hospital in a suburb of his hometown of Philadelphia, according to a statement posted by his marketing and event coordinator Maria Novey.

Along with James Darren, Fabian and Frankie Avalon, Rydell was among a wave of wholesome teen idols who emerged after Elvis Presley and before the rise of The Beatles.

Between 1959 and 1964, he had nearly three dozen Top 40 singles including Wild One, Volare, Wildwood Days, The Cha-Cha-Cha and Forget Him, a song of consolation for a bereft girl that helped inspire The Beatles’ classic She Loves You.

He had recurring roles on The Red Skelton Show and other television programs, and 1963’s Bye Bye Birdie was rewritten to give Rydell a major part as the boyfriend of Ann-Margret.

He did not want to move to Hollywood, however, and Birdie became his only significant movie role — though the high school in the hit 1970s musical Grease was named for him.

Rydell never strayed far from his Philadelphia roots, living in the area for most of his life. The block of 11th Street where he grew up was christened Bobby Rydell Boulevard by his hometown in 1995.

“I never thought of myself as a celebrity,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2003. “I was just a guy who went out there and worked.”

He is survived by his second wife, Linda Hoffman, whom he married in 2009, along with son Robert Ridarelli, daughter Jennifer Dulin and five grandchildren.

Tributes paid to Bobby Rydell

Tributes were paid to Rydell on social media, by many stars who knew him or admired him.

The singer Deana Martin was "heartbroken" by Rydell's passing, as she tweeted: "I am absolutely heartbroken at the loss of my dear Pallie Bobby Rydell. He was an incredible entertainer and absolutely one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. Rest well Bobby. We love you, Deana Martin."

Burton Cummings praised Rydell for inspiring him to make it in the music industry, posting: "BOBBY RYDELL (1942 - 2022) Truly one of my heroes. Had it not been for Rydell, I may never have pursued a career making records. His recordings will never be forgotten. He made me always try to be a better singer. Rest in peace Ridarelli..."

The author Stephen King also commended Rydell's talent, tweeting: "Bobby Rydell passed on. What a shame! He was the most talented of the 50s and early 60s teen idols. Well…maybe a tie with Bobby Darin."