The son of an Italian-born cabinetmaker, Bobby Darin briefly attended Hunter College, then supported himself as a singing waiter and musician at a Catskills resort. After scratching out a fitfully profitable existence as a commercial-jingle composer, Darin became a professional singer in 1956. He sent a demo record to up-and-coming record executive Don Kirschner, which resulted in a contract. Three flop singles later, Darin half-jokingly recorded a nonsense number titled "Splish Splash"--which turned out to be his first bonafide hit. Not wishing to be typed as a rock-and-roller, Darin adapted the old Kurt Weill/Bertoldt Brecht ballad "Moritat" into the top-selling "Mack the Knife"; this enabled him to break away from the onus of "teenage idol" and broaden his appeal to adults. Darin was eventually picked up by Universal Pictures to star in a series of lightweight but popular musical films, often co-starring his first wife, Sandra Dee. After turning in powerful dramatic performances in Pressure Point (1962) and Captain Newman MD (1963), Darin graduated from pop personality to serious actor; in fact, he was Oscar-nominated for his work in Newman. By the end of the 1960s, however, Darin's star was on the downgrade, and he seemed to have trouble keeping apace of changing musical tastes. Bobby Darin was in the process of making a comeback when he died at the age of 37, following open-heart surgery.