1962 James Darren – Conscience
James Darren was born in Philadelphia, making him one of a small group of teen idols from the city. He signed with Columbia as an actor in 1956 and began appearing in small roles in films and television shows. When he appeared in the film Gidget in 1959, James sang the theme song. They released the song from the soundtrack as a single and it reached #41 on the Hot 100. He also appeared in the two sequels to the film.
James appeared on The Donna Reed show in 1959 playing a pop star who comes down with the measles and has to stay with the family until he recovers. Two years later, he again appeared as a pop star, but a different star than he played the first time. The singer was on his way into the army, and James sang a version of Goodbye Cruel World on the show. That version of the song had him singing about being, “Off to join the army.” The song had such a strong reception that he made a new recording with new lyrics, “Off to join the circus.”
The single with the new lyrics came out a few months after the show and the record sped up to #3 on the Hot 100. Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote both that song and his next single, Her Royal Majesty. In early 1962, that single got as high as #6.
Another familiar pair at the Brill Building wrote his third hit single: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Conscience was a strange record. It had patches of dead silence and spoken words, and the speed of the song kept changing, but the single somehow peaked at #11 on the Hot 100. They also wrote his next single, Mary’s Little Lamb, but the best it could manage was one week at #39.
He provided the singing voices for Yogi Bear in Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear in 1964, and for the prehistoric star James Darrock on The Flintstones in 1965.
James had only one more top forty single. Leon Russell arranged the song All which had appeared in the film, Run For Your Wife. The single reached #35 in 1967.
While his recording career had faded, James had no trouble getting work as an actor. He was the lead actor on television in The Time Tunnel from 1966 to 1967. He also starred with William Shatner in T. J. Hooker from 1983 to 1986. He appeared in guest roles on many shows. He later successfully transitioned to directing.
James found a whole new career in 1998. They cast him in the role of Vic Fontaine on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He appeared as a hologram, singing “classic” songs and passing along advice. Because of those appearances, he recorded an album of songs from the show in 1999 and an album of Sinatra-style performances in 2001.
His most recent appearance came in the film LUCKY in 2017.
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