Bobby Rydell, legendary singer of Wildwood Days, actor, dies at 79

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Bobby Rydell, singer of Wildwood Days, died just shy of his 80th birthday.

The Philadelphia legend, who could sing, dance and act, appeared in "Bye, Bye Birdie," but he was best known for singing the anthem of the Jersey Shore.

It's impossible to walk the boardwalk without hearing "Wildwood Days." Not only does it appear on loud speakers throughout Wildwood's boardwalk, Morey's Pier plays the song each night to signify that rides are closing.

According to his website, Rydell recorded 34 Top 40 hits, placing him in the Top 5 artists of his era (Billboard Magazine). His top hits include Volare, Wild One, We Got Love, Kissin’ Time, Swingin’ School, Wildwood Days, and Forget Him, selling a combined total of over 25 million records. It also says the fictional Rydell High in the movie "Grease" was named after him.

Rydell made his film debut in the 1963 hit classic, “Bye Bye Birdie,” as Hugo Peabody, the love interest of Ann-Margret’s character. He later went on to star in multiple movies, television series, and comedy specials.

Rydell stole hearts as one of America's first teen idols, and was still performing in recent years. Last year, a crowd in Wildwood filled a park to listen to him sing and tell stories of his long career.

He died Wednesday at Abington Jefferson Hospital on non-COVID-related pneumonia complications, according to a news release.

"Loved by his fans, Rydell was known for taking time to meet and greet audiences after shows, during book signings, and at private dinner events. He was an advocate for The Gift of Life, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping families whose loved ones experience and recover from organ transplants," the release read.

According to his site, Rydell was a huge proponent of the Gift of Life program after his life was saved thanks to organ donors.

"On July 9, 2012, Bobby underwent a double organ transplant. He received 75% of a liver and one kidney," the site said. "His life was about to end when the generous family of a dying child saved 8 lives by organ donation. Bobby returned to the stage in Las Vegas in just 6 months, turning near tragedy to triumph. He is dedicated to public awareness; spreading the word to the world in his travels about the Gift of Life through organ donation."

Rydell would have turned 80 on April 26.

Rydell, whose real name is Robert Ridarelli, is survived by his wife, Linda J. Hoffman, son Robert Ridarelli, daughter Jennifer Dulin, and his five grandchildren.

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Bobby Rydell, legendary singer and actor, dies at 79