Bobby Vee died aged seventy-three from complications of Alzheimer's disease on 24th October 2016. He was survived by his wife Karen, their sons Jeffrey, Thomas, and Robert, and daughter Jennifer.
Bobby Vee had continued performing live until 2011 when first diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease. In 2011, friends and family contributed to his final new recordings which were eventually released as The Adobe Sessions inFebruary 2014. He had been in care for thirteen months in a long-term care facility in Rogers, Minnesota, U.S.A. just outside of Minneapolis, and eventually received hospice care in the final weeks before his death.
Vee was born in Fargo, North Dakota, U.S.A. to Sydney Velline and Saima , in a family of mixed Norwegian and Finnish heritage. His first single, "Suzie Baby," was written by Bobby Vee and recorded for the Soma label, based in Minneapolis, in 1959; it was a hit in Minnesota and drew enough national attention to be purchased by Liberty Records, which signed him later that year. His follow-up single, a cover of Adam Faith's UK number-one "What Do You Want?", charted in the lower reaches of the Billboard pop chart in early 1960. His fourth release, a revival of the Clovers' doo-wop ballad "Devil or Angel", brought him into the big time with U.S. buyers. His next single, "Rubber Ball" in 1961, a U.S. number six and Australian number one, made him an international star.
Bobby Vee's recording of "Take Good Care of My Baby" in the summer of 1961 went to number one on Billboard magazine's U.S. pop chart and number three in the UK Singles Chart. Known primarily as a performer of Brill Building pop material, he went on to record a string of international hits in the 1960s, including "More Than I Can Say" in 1961, "Run to Him" in 1961, "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" in 1963, and "Come Back When You Grow Up" in 1967. Bobby's original band, The Shadows, backed him on the road, but changed their name to The Strangers upon learning of the UK band The Shadows who backed Cliff Richards. He also recorded, in 1961, a version of the song "Lollipop", originally by Ronald & Ruby, which also became a success. Bobby Vee had a total of ten hit singles in the UK, ending with "Bobby Tomorrow" in 1963.
Bobby Vee was also a pioneer in the music video genre, appearing in several musical films and in the Scopitone series of early film-and-music jukebox recordings.
The Very Best of Bobby Vee, released by EMI/UK in 2008, charted in the UK top five. On January 17th, 2011, EMI/UK released Rarities, a double-CD package with 61 tracks, many of which were previously unreleased. Others included were alternate takes and first-time stereo releases as well as tracks from the album Bobby Vee Live on Tour, without the "canned" audience.
On March 28th, 2011, Bobby became the 235th inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
An active live performer into 2011, Bobby Vee was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at which time he completed his scheduled tour obligations and recorded his final CD, which was released three years later. In 2014 he was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame.
Bobby Vee's career began in the midst of tragedy. On February 3rd, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper—were killed in an air crash. Bobby, then fifteen years old, and a hastily assembled band of Fargo schoolboys calling themselves the Shadows volunteered for and were given the unenviable job of filling in for Buddy Holly and his band at their Moorhead engagement. The performance there was a success, setting in motion a chain of events that led to Bobby Vee's career as a popular singer.
In 1963, Bobby Vee released a tribute album on Liberty Records called 'I Remember Buddy Holly'. In the liner notes, he recalled Buddy Holly's influence on him and the events surrounding the death, describing how he had looked forward to attending the concert, how the local radio station put out a call for local talent to fill after the disaster, and how his recently-organized, group, modelled on Buddy Holly's style, had to make up a name, the Shadows, on the spot.
Bobby Vee went on to become a bona fide star. He regularly performed at Winter Dance Party memorial concerts in Clear Lake. His three sons, all musicians, performed with him there.
Early in Bobby Vee's career, a musician calling himself Elston Gunnn briefly toured with the band. This was Robert Allen Zimmerman, who later went on to fame as Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan's autobiography mentions Bobby Vee and provides complimentary details about their friendship, both professional and personal.
In a concert at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota, on 10th July 2013, Bob Dylan said he had been on the stage with many stars, but that none of them were as meaningful as Bobby Vee. He said Bobby Vee was in the audience and then played Bobby Vee's hit "Suzie Baby" with emotion.
Bobby Vee and Karen married in December 1963. In the early 1980s Bobby moved his family from Los Angeles to St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he and Karen organized annual fundraising concerts to provide music and arts facilities for local children.