Conny Van Dyke, Motown Singer and ‘W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings’ Star, Dies at 78

Conny Van Dyke, a singer-songwriter signed to Motown Records who starred in such films as “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” and “Framed,” has died. She was 78.

Van Dyke died on Nov. 11 at her home in Los Angeles due to complications of vascular dementia, her son Bronson Page told Variety.

The Detroit native was a longtime colon cancer and stroke survivor. She got her start in the entertainment industry when she was just 15 and a student in high school, making the film “Among the Thorns” with Tom Laughlin, Bill Wellman Jr. and Stephanie Powers. During that time, Van Dyke also worked as a songwriter for Wheelsville Records in Detroit.

In 1961, Van Dyke signed with Motown Records, making her one of the first white recording artists on the label. Her first two singles, “Oh, Freddy,” written by Smokey Robinson, and “It Hurt Me Too,” previously written and recorded by Marvin Gaye, were released in 1963.

In 1969, Van Dyke starred as Betsy, Jeremy Slate’s love interest, in the outlaw biker film “Hell’s Angels ’69.” Also starring in the film were Tom Stern, Steve Sandor, Sonny Barger and the Oakland Hells Angels motorcycle club as themselves. Van Dyke described filming the movie as “a terrifying, and yet, exhilarating experience.”

After starring in “Hell’s Angels ’69,” Van Dyke released two country albums, “Conny Van Dyke” and “Conny Van Dyke Sings for You.” In 1975, she also went on to star in “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” alongside Burt Reynolds and Art Carney and “Framed” as singer Susan Barrett with Joe Don Baker. Van Dyke made a slew of television appearances on “Adam-12,” “Barbary Coast” and “Nakia” with game show appearances on “The Hollywood Squares,” “Match Game,” “Tattletale” and “The Gong Show,” among others.

Van Dyke retired from acting in the late 1970s to take care of her son, but returned in 2008 with a guest role on “Cold Case” and, later, “CSI,” before suffering a stroke that left her partially paralyzed and from which she never fully recovered.

Van Dyke is survived by her son, Page.

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