Pop singer Bobby Vee, a former teen idol who rose to fame in the 1960s with singles like “Take Good Care of My Baby” and “Run to Him,” died Monday of advanced Alzheimer’s disease, his son told the Associated Press. He was 73.
Born Robert Velline in Fargo, North Dakota, Vee’s first big break came in 1959 when, at the age of 15, he filled in for rock ‘n’ roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson, who were killed in a plane crash en route to the Moorhead, Minnesota concert.
Following that performance, he recorded the single “Suzie Baby” with The Shadows, which became a modest hit in the region before reaching No. 77 on the Billboard pop chart. He subsequently signed to Liberty Records following the single’s success.
Vee released 38 singles that became hits on the U.S. charts between 1959 and 1970, though his only No. 1 was released in 1961, when he recorded “Take Care Good of My Baby,” co-written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. He went on to notch several other singles on the U.S. mainstream chart (including “Run to Him,” which peaked at No. 2, and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” which reached No. 3). His last appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 came in 1970 with “Sweet Sweetheart.”
Bob Dylan briefly played with Vee’s band as an up-and-coming musician, going by the name Elston Gunn when he played several live shows with The Shadows. The Associated Press notes it was Dylan who suggested Vee perform under the stage name under which he would write songs, record, and play guitar under well into the 2000s.
The publication reports Vee’s final public performance came in 2011, the year he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, during an annual community fundraiser held by his family in St. Joseph, Minnesota. He released his final album, The Adobe Sessions, recorded with family members in his garage in Tucson, Arizona, three years later. It was released on the 55th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Holly.
Vee leaves behind four children, whom he had with his wife, Karen, who died in 2015 at age 71. They were married for more than 50 years.