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Novelty Song Friday #8 — “Goodbye Cruel World,” by James Darren

I remember loving this song when I was a little kid. I remember having a terrible crush on James Darren!

James William Ercolani (born June 8, 1936), known by his stage name James Darren, is an American television and film actor, television director, and singer.

Darren was born in Philadelphia. He wanted to be an actor and studied in New York City with Stella Adler for a number of years. He would also occasionally sing although he later said “I wasn’t really a singer. I was a kid in Philly whose dad would take him to bars and nightclubs and I would get up and sing two songs.”

Darren was third billed in the surf film, Gidget (1959), starring Sandra Dee and Cliff Robertson, playing Moondoggie. He also sang the title track. “They were thinking about having someone do the vocal and I would lip sync,” he recalled. “I told them I could do it. So we went into one of the sound stages and I sang ‘Gidget’. They said, ‘He sings fine,’ then I did all the other songs.

The film was a hit with teen audiences and so was the song. Darren wound up recording a string of pop hits for Colpix Records, the biggest of which was “Goodbye Cruel World.” It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Another sizeable hit was “Her Royal Majesty” (#6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962).

Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) reprises Darren’s role as Moondoggie; he had a new Gidget (Deborah Walley) and was given top billing. He played Moondoggie a third time in Gidget Goes to Rome (1962) which he later said he “hated… I didn’t want to do it. I thought that I’d be doing those for the rest of my life.”

I only included the Gidget movies, but James Darren has been in a lot of movies and on TV. He has 54 acting credits listed at imdb.com, the last one being in 2017 in the film, “Lucky.”

Per wikipedia:
Goodbye Cruel World” is a song written by Gloria Shayne Regney who, with her collaborator/husband, Noel Regney, also wrote the well-known Christmas carol, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and several songs for singer Lesley Gore. The most famous recording of this song is by James Darren. With its release as a single in 1961, Darren scored his first top ten hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, at number three. On the Cash Box Top 100, it spent two weeks at number two. It would prove the biggest hit of his career on this chart, as well as on the UK Singles Chart (no. 28).

Darren, playing pop idol “Kip Dennis”, performed the song on a late 1961 episode of The Donna Reed Show. (He had previously played a different character in a 1959 episode of the sitcom.) The song’s lyrics were changed to “join the Army” instead of “join the circus” to reflect his character’s reason to exit the show as Shelley Fabare’s “love interest” ala Elvis’ zeitgeist Army stint.

The song was also used in a film on Pop Art directed by Ken Russell for the BBC TV series Monitor which was aired in March 1962; its context here was the escape from the dying culture of the British Empire.

According to disc jockeys at the time the song was released, the calliope-like riff used in the song based on the “Entrance of the Gladiators” theme, was a synthesized recording of a woman’s voice rather than a musical instrument.



{Goodbye, cruel world}
{Goodbye, cruel world}

Oh, goodbye, cruel world, I’m off to join the circus
Gonna be a broken-hearted clown
Paint my face with a good-for-nothin’ smile
‘Cause a mean, fickle woman turned my whole world upside down

Farewell to love, I’m off to join the circus
Gotta find a way to hide my tears
Bet I’ll have them rolling in the aisle
And I’ll forget that woman if it takes a hundred years

{Goodbye, cruel world}

Oh, oh, oh, step right up and take a look at a fool
He’s got a heart as stubborn as a mule
C’mon, everybody, he’s good for a laugh
And no one could tell his heart is broken in half

Well, the joke’s on me; I’m off to join the circus
Oh, Mr. Barnum, save a place for me
Shoot me out of a cannon, I don’t care
Let the people point at me and stare
I’ll tell the world that woman, wherever she may be
That mean, fickle woman made a cryin’ clown outta me

{Goodbye, cruel world}

Shoot me out of a cannon, I don’t care
Let the people point at me and stare
I’ll tell the world that woman, wherever she may be
That mean, fickle woman made a cryin’ clown outta me

Goodbye, cruel world
Goodbye, cruel world
Goodbye, cruel world
Goodbye, cruel world
Songwriters: Gloria Shayne

18 thoughts on “Novelty Song Friday #8 — “Goodbye Cruel World,” by James Darren

    1. You’ve got to be kidding! Not another one of these toxic family deceptions! I wonder how many times this scenario has been played out across the years… How old was he when he found out his sister was his mother, do you know?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I loved him on “The Time Tunnel” when I was a kid; remember that TV show? I didn’t know he could sing; thank you for featuring his song, I learned something new!

    Liked by 1 person

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