Bobby Rydell, Bye Bye Birdie actor and teen pop star, died at age 79 from pneumonia, according to Variety. It was confirmed by radio announcer and friend Jerry Blavat that Rydell died in a hospital in his hometown of Philadelphia. Born Robert Louis Ridarelli, Rydell began his career as a cast member on Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club, a variety show featuring local Philadelphia teenagers. He eventually signed to Cameo Records and gained popularity with 34 Billboard Hot 100 singles, including “Wild One,” “Swingin’ School,” and “The Cha-Cha-Cha.” In 1963, Rydell played his most notable role, Hugo Peabody, in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, alongside Dick Van Dyke and Ann-Margaret. The part originally had no lines in the Broadway stage production and was rewritten for Rydell in the film adaptation.
However, as the 1960s British Invasion took over entertainment in the U.S., teens became obsessed with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and gave less attention to American teen-idol acts. Despite the change in popularity, Rydell inspired one of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s Beatles hits. In the 2000 book The Beatles Anthology, McCartney recalls writing “She Loves You” with Lennon and being inspired by Bobby Rydell’s “Swingin’ School.” “John (Lennon) and I wrote ‘She Loves You’ together. There was a Bobby Rydell song out at the time, and, as often happens, you think of one song when you write another. We’d planned an ‘answering song’ where a couple of us would sing ‘She Loves You’ and the other ones would answer ‘yeah yeah,’” wrote McCartney. Rydell influenced other significant pop-culture media throughout his career; the high school in Grease, Rydell High School, is named after the actor as a tribute to 1960s teen idols. He is survived by his wife, Linda J. Hoffman, two children, and five grandchildren.