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Saturday, June 18, 2011

The sad story of Darren Burn

I'd never heard of Darren Burn until Pete Paphides dropped in to the Word podcast to talk about his collection of old music papers. Thanks to Gavin Hogg I got hold of a DVD of the Man Alive documentary that was made about Darren in 1973. At the time he was an 11-year-old schoolboy living just up the road from where I live now and attending City of London.

His father was Colin Burn, a promotion man working for EMI. When EMI decided they needed to be competing in the Donny Osmond market Darren's mother Joanna put him forward. He could sing, he looked cute and he was a bright lad. His first single was a cover of Gene Pitney's "Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart". He was given the big label treatment, much of which was captured in John Pitman's film "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" for Man Alive.

The record wasn't a hit and Darren had to go back to school where his classmates called him "top of the flops". The Man Alive film, which is very disapproving of everyone at the record company for exploiting the child, really can't have helped. In the eighties the BBC caught up with him for a "Where Are They Now?" slot. He was unemployed and living on his own in south London. All the youthful twinkle had been replaced by a cold bitterness. He blamed his mother for using him to further her own show business ambitions. A couple of years later he was dead following an overdose of anti-depressants.