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Singer Bobby Vee dies aged 73


Vee enjoyed several top 10 hits in the UK during the early 1960s (AP)

Vee enjoyed several top 10 hits in the UK during the early 1960s (AP)

Vee enjoyed several top 10 hits in the UK during the early 1960s (AP)

US pop singer Bobby Vee, whose early 1960s hits included Take Good Care of My Baby and Rubber Ball, has died aged 73.

Vee, who also helped a young Bob Dylan get his start, died on Monday of advanced Alzheimer's disease, his son Jeff Velline said.

The singer was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011 and performed his last show that year.

He had been in care at The Wellstead of Rogers & Diamondcrest in Rogers, about 25 miles north-west of Minneapolis, for the past 13 months and in hospice care in recent weeks, his son said.

Vee died peacefully surrounded by family, Mr Velline said, calling it "the end of a long hard road".

He said his father was "a person who brought joy all over the world. That was his job".

Born Robert Velline in Fargo, North Dakota, Vee was only 15 when he took the stage in Moorhead, Minnesota, after the February 3, 1959, plane crash in Iowa that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson on their way to the concert.

The call went out for local acts to replace Holly at his scheduled show at the Moorhead National Guard Armoury. Vee and his two-week-old band volunteered, along with three or four other bands.

The show's MC, Charlie Boone, turned to Vee and asked him the name of his band. Vee looked at the shadows of his bandmates on the floor and answered: "The Shadows."

"I didn't have any fear right then," Vee recalled in 1999.

"The fear didn't hit me until the spotlight came on, and then I was just shattered by it."

Within months, the young singer and The Shadows, which included his older brother Bill on lead guitar, recorded Vee's Suzie Baby for Soma Records in Minneapolis. It was a regional hit and Vee soon signed with Liberty Records.

He went on to record 38 Top 100 hits from 1959 to 1970, hitting the top of the charts in 1961 with the Carole King-Gerry Goffin song Take Good Care of My Baby and reaching number two with the follow-up Run to Him.

Other Vee hits include Rubber Ball, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, Devil or Angel, Come Back When You Grow Up, Please Don't Ask About Barbara and Punish Her.

Vee also was a skilled rhythm guitarist and occasional songwriter.

He racked up six gold singles but saw his hits diminish with the British invasion of The Beatles and other English groups in the mid-1960s.

Vee kept recording into the 2000s and maintained a steady touring schedule.

But he began having trouble remembering lyrics during performances, and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011.

He performed his last show that year, billed only as his retirement, during an annual community fundraiser his family holds near their home in St Joseph, Minnesota, about 65 miles north-west of Minneapolis.

He did not announce his diagnosis until a year later on his website.

Vee still released a new album - The Adobe Sessions, a loose jam session recorded with family members in Vee's adobe garage north of Tucson, Arizona.

The album also included Vee's cover of Bob Dylan's The Man in Me, a nod to the folk-rock legend who got his start in Vee's band in Fargo.

Dylan grew up in Hibbing, a town on northern Minnesota's Iron Range, and briefly played with Vee's band.

Although their time playing together was short, Dylan had a lasting effect on Vee's career: It was Dylan, himself going by the name Elston Gunn when he hammered on the piano at a couple of The Shadows' gigs, who suggested Vee change his last name from Velline to Vee.