Bobby Rydell, teenage idol and ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ star, dies at 79

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Bobby Rydell, a teenage idol from the 1960s known for songs like “Wild One” and his role as Hugo Peabody in the 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie, has died. He was 79.

Rydell died Tuesday in Abington, Pa., his representatives told Variety, Rolling Stone and the New York Times. The cause of death was pneumonia complications that were unrelated to COVID-19.

Rydell’s death — just weeks away from his 80th birthday — also was confirmed by radio legend Jerry Blavat, who was one of Rydell’s longtime friends.

“He had the best pipes and was the greatest entertainer,” Blavat said. “He told the best stories, did the best impersonations and was the nicest guy.”

Born Robert Louis Ridarelli on April 26, 1942, in South Philadelphia, Rydell had his first Billboard 100 song in 1959 and went on to have a musical career that featured 34 top 100 hits and more than 25 million album sales.

His hit song “Wild One” peaked at No. 2, and “Volare” reached No. 4 on the Billboard 100. Some of his other notable tracks include “Swingin’ School,” “The Cha-Cha-Cha” and “Wildwood Days.”

Rydell parlayed his musical fame into a starring role opposite Ann-Margret in the movie version of the satirical musical Bye Bye Birdie. In 2011, Bye Bye Birdie received a digital restoration, and Rydell appeared with Ann-Margret at a special Academy screening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Rydell also appeared in the 1975 Australian crime film That Lady From Peking as Buddy Foster. Rydell High School, the setting for Grease, is named after the singer.

He is survived by his wife, Linda J. Hoffman, son Robert Ridarelli, daughter Jennifer Dulin, and his five grandchildren.

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