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Fargo-born pop legend Bobby Vee dead at 73

Bobby Vee in 1962

Bobby Vee in 1962 Wikipedia Commons

Bobby Vee, the pop star best remembered for his 1961 hit “Take Good Care of My Baby,” and a longtime resident of St. Joseph, Minnesota, died Monday morning from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 73. 

Vee served as a bridge between the footloose rock ‘n’ roll pioneers of the ‘50s and the more self-conscious rock stars of the ‘60s. His career was jumpstarted in January 1959, when an Iowa plane crash killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. The next scheduled show on their tour was in Moorhead, Minnesota, and the 15-year-old Vee and his group, the Shadows, stepped in.

Then, once he started recording, Vee hired a pianist who called himself Elston Gunnn -- an early stage name that Hibbing, Minnesota, native Robert Zimmerman tried on for size before determining that Bob Dylan better suited his purposes.

Robert Thomas Velline was born in Fargo, North Dakota, in 1943. His first hit, “Suzie Baby,” a nod to Holly’s “Peggy Sue,” was released by the Minnesota-based Soma Records. Vee would go on to record 13 Top 40 hits, most of which charted in the years prior to the British Invasion. His only No. 1, “Take Good Care of My Baby,” was written by Brill Building greats Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and recorded by the Beatles in 1961 as part of their audition for Decca Records.

Dylan always spoke warmly of Vee. During his July 2013 performance at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, Dylan, typically laconic onstage, offered a lengthy testimonial to the singer before playing “Suzie Baby.”

“I've played all over the world, with all kinds of people. And everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna,” Dylan said, before calling Vee “the most meaningful person I've ever been on the stage with.”

Vee was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, and he passed away under hospice care in Rogers, Minnesota. Vee’s wife Karen, who he married in 1963, died last year of kidney failure.