Beyond the sea

December 6, 2011 • 5:00 am

I feel like posting a few pieces of music this week.

To my mind, Bobby Darin was one of the most underrated talents in the pop music business. He not only had a unique singing style (remember “Mack the Knife”?), but was also a great songwriter during the Brill Building years of rock and roll.  And he was a creditable actor, too, winning a Golden Globe for his performance in the movie “Come September“.

Darin’s biography on Wikipedia is of great interest to those who remember him. I didn’t know, for instance, that his romance with fellow singer Connie Francis was busted up by Francis’s Italian father wielding a shotgun (Darin later married Sandra Dee of “Gidget” fame). He died from heart problems at only 37, a great loss to popular music.

Here’s Darin doing a live performance of one of my favorite pop songs (the excuse for this post), “Beyond the Sea” (the tune is taken from a French song, “La Mer,” which had completely different words). You’ll like the music, but you may dislike his patter (I love it). He was a consummate entertainer.

Listen carefully to the arrangement of this song (and the Spacey version below): it’s terrific, with an almost Basie-like interposition of the horns. Note the bit from the old Cab Calloway song, “Blue Serge Suit.”  At 5:17 Darin notes that he’s 37 years old. I believe this performance was recorded on April 27, 1973; Darin died on December 20 of that year.

Kevin Spacey played Darin in a forgettable movie also called “Beyond the Sea.” But Spacey’s physical resemblance to Darin is astonishing, and what you might not know is that Spacey is a damn good singer, too.  Both qualities are on display in this live performance of the eponymous song.  Note that Spacey is introduced by Katie Couric, who does a twirl with him halfway through the song.

If you want to see a younger Darin singing this song live, go here.

20 thoughts on “Beyond the sea

  1. Both performances are great; thank you for posting. The resemblance between the two singers is indeed stunning.

    In my view, Kevin Spacey is one of the most underrated actors. Granted, he has his own “cult” following, but if Hollywood had their priorities straight, he would have 10 Oskars and command $20 million per movie.

    1. He is of course at the Old Vic in Waterloo as artistic director – has been for quite a few years. He is good.

      I knew the song from a French version originally (did not know the words)- but I did not realize it is not a translation. Not what I would call ‘pop’, only in the older sense of popular music. It says on Wikipedia that Trenet wrote it on a train, on toilet paper!

  2. Great performances from both. I believe Spacey bank-rolled the film and judging by the excellent production values he didn’t skimp. Not sure if he made any money though.


  3. Rhino (I think) put out an excellent 4-CD Bobby Darin about ten years ago. Each disc covers a career-within-the-career. The liner notes are fascinating if you are a fan. His fragile heart was a time bomb and he lived his life full-speed ahead to the end.

  4. Also the closing credits for ‘Finding Nemo’ featured a version of Beyond the Sea as sung by Robbie Williams.

  5. I got teased in high school for having an eclectic taste in music including Darin and Torme’. Those clowns didn’t know what they were missing though, Darin was a great performer. He never seemed to take himself too seriously and had fun with his music. “If I Was a Carpenter” is another one of his songs I like to sing. Very sad that he died so young.

  6. The Julio Inglesias version of “La Mer” is also very good. It is the end title music for Tinker Tailor (the film) which is a must see.

  7. This song is very family to a large segment of the younger generation ever since it was so perfectly used in Bioshock–truly a masterpiece of storytelling.

  8. Louis Armstrong’s version of Mack the Knife is my favorite. His unique voice and animated expressions really manage to capture the essence of the song. But I’m also convinced that no one can perform Beyond the Sea quite like Bobby Darin.

  9. I can’t help pointing out that Charles Trenet’s “La Mer” still has very different words and I don’t expect the two songs to ever have the same words.

  10. I’ve always enjoyed Bobby Darin’s music, especially “Beyond the Sea” and “Mack the Knife”. I’ve only seen him act in “Doctor Newman, M.D.” (with Gregory Peck, Tony Curtis, and Angie Dickinson) where he plays a airman with PSTD (not called that in the movie).

    Charles Trenet’s “La Mer”, performed by him, is also one of my favorites. It can be heard at the beginning of Steve Martin’s “LA Story”.

  11. I assume he was a smoker because he’s lost his high notes in the later video. The earlier one is much better.

  12. A fabulous sort of folk-y version was done by We Five in 1965, featuring the soaring voice of Beverly Bivens, one of the best female pop singers ever, IMO: here

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