Bobby Vee, the late’-50s and early-’60s pop star and teen idol, died earlier today, as the BBC reports. Vee had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for the past five years. He was 73.
Vee was born Robert Veline in Fargo, and he famously got his big break as a 15-year-old. Vee was singing for a group called the Shadows in Fargo when Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper all died in a plane crash en route to a show in Moorhead, Minnesota. The promoters booked the Shadows as a last-second replacement for Holly, and their performance was somehow a success. Later in 1959, Vee scored his first hit with “Suzie Baby,” a song that he wrote in answer to Holly’s “Peggy Sue.” A few years later, in 1963, Vee recorded a whole Buddy Holly tribute album and wrote about how deep an influence Holly had been on him before his death.
Over the next few years, Vee scored a number of international hits, most notably the star-making “Rubber Ball” and “Take Good Care Of My Baby,” a massive #1 hit written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. He also appeared in a few movies in the early ’60s. In the years since, Vee has become known as an avatar of the sort of scrubbed-clean American pop that took over rock n’ roll before the Beatles arrived in 1964. But Vee was also a prolific recording artist, and he kept touring and recording until his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2011. And, in a fascinating footnote, Bob Dylan spent some time playing guitar in Vee’s touring band before finding fame on his own. Dylan later called Vee “the most meaningful person I’ve ever been on the stage with.”
Below, listen to a few of Vee’s songs.