November 21, 2017 – David Cassidy (The Partridge Family) was born on April 12, 1950 in New York, New York with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father was singer/actor Jack Cassidy and his mother actress Evelyn Ward.
As his parents were frequently touring on the road, he spent his early years being raised by his maternal grandparents in a middle-class neighborhood in West Orange, New Jersey. In 1956, he found out from neighbors’ children that his parents had been divorced for over two years and had not told him. David’s parents had decided because he was at such a young age, it would be better for his emotional stability to not discuss it at that time. They were gone often with theater productions and home life remained the same. Many years later, after his father’s death, he found out that his father was bi-sexual with many homosexual encounters.
In 1956, Cassidy’s father married singer and actress Shirley Jones. They had three children: David’s half-brothers Shaun (b. 1958), Patrick (b. 1962), and Ryan (b. 1966).
In 1968, after completing one final session of summer school to obtain credits necessary to get a high-school diploma, David moved into the rental home of Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones in Irvington, New York, where his half-brothers also resided. David remained there seeking fame as an actor/musician while simultaneously working half-days in the mailroom of a textile firm. He moved out when his career began to flourish.
On January 2, 1969, Cassidy made his professional debut in the Broadway musical The Fig Leaves Are Falling. It closed after four performances, but a casting director saw the show and asked Cassidy to make a screen test. As a result of the test, he moved to Los Angeles. After signing with Universal Studios that same year, Cassidy was featured in episodes of the television series Ironside, Marcus Welby, M.D., Adam-12 and Bonanza.
In 1970, Cassidy took the role of Keith Partridge, son of Shirley Partridge, who was played by Cassidy’s real stepmother and series lead Shirley Jones. The Partridge Family series creator Bernard Slade and producers Paul Junger Witt and Bob Claver did not care whether Cassidy could sing, knowing only that his androgynous good looks would guarantee success.
Shortly after production began, though, Cassidy convinced music producer Wes Farrell that he was good enough, and he was promoted to lead singer for the series’ recordings.
Once “I Think I Love You” became a hit, Cassidy began work on solo albums, as well. Within the first year, he had produced his own single, a cover of The Association’s “Cherish” (from the album of the same title), which reached number nine in the United States, number two in the United Kingdom (a double A-side with “Could It Be Forever”), and number one in Australia and New Zealand. He began tours that featured Partridge tunes and his own hits. Cassidy achieved far greater solo chart success in the UK than in his native America, including a cover of The Young Rascals’ “How Can I Be Sure” and the double A-side single “Daydreamer” / “The Puppy Song” — two UK number ones which failed to chart in the States.
In Britain, Cassidy the solo star remains best known for “Daydreamer”, “How Can I Be Sure” and “Could It Be Forever” (UK no. 2/US no. 37), all released during his 1972–73 solo chart peak. Though he wanted to become a respected rock musician along the lines of Mick Jagger, his channel to stardom launched him into the ranks of teen idol, a brand he loathed until much later in life, when he managed to come to terms with his bubblegum pop beginnings.
Ten albums by The Partridge Family and five solo albums were produced during the series, with most selling more than a million copies each. Internationally, Cassidy’s solo career eclipsed the already phenomenal success of The Partridge Family. He became an instant drawcard, with sellout concert successes in major arenas around the world. These concerts produced mass hysteria, resulting in the media coining the term “Cassidymania”. For example, he played to two sellout crowds of 56,000 each at the Houston Astrodome in Texas over one weekend in 1972. His concert in New York’s Madison Square Garden sold out in one day and resulted in riots after the show. His concert tours of the United Kingdom included sellout concerts at Wembley Stadium in 1973. In Australia in 1974, the mass hysteria was such that calls were made to have him deported from the country, especially after the madness at his 33,000-person audience concert at Melbourne Cricket Ground.
A turning point in Cassidy’s live concerts (while still filming The Partridge Family) was a gate stampede which killed a teenage girl. At a show in London’s White City Stadium on May 26, 1974, nearly 800 were injured in a crush at the front of the stage. Thirty were taken to the hospital, and one, 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan, died four days later at London’s Hammersmith Hospital without regaining consciousness after the excitement and press of the crowd caused a pre-existing heart condition to trigger cardiac arrest.
The show was the penultimate date on a world tour. A deeply affected Cassidy faced the press, trying to make sense of what had happened. Out of respect for the family and to avoid turning the girl’s funeral into a media circus, Cassidy did not attend the service, although he spoke to Whelan’s parents and sent flowers. Cassidy stated at the time that this would haunt him until the day he died.
I’m exploited by people who put me on the back of cereal boxes. I asked my housekeeper to go and buy a certain kind of cereal and when she came home, there was a huge picture of me on the back. I can’t even eat breakfast without seeing my face. —New Musical Express, October 1972.
By this point, Cassidy had decided to quit both touring and acting in The Partridge Family, concentrating instead on recording and songwriting. International success continued, mostly in Great Britain, Germany, and Japan, when he released three well-received solo albums on RCA in 1975 and 1976. Cassidy became the first recording artist to have a hit with “I Write the Songs”, a top-20 record in Great Britain before the song became Barry Manilow’s signature tune. Cassidy’s recording was produced by the song’s author-composer, Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys.
Expanding the ON SCREEN CAREER
In 1978, Cassidy starred in an episode of Police Story titled “A Chance to Live”, for which he received an Emmy Award nomination. NBC created a series based on it, called David Cassidy: Man Undercover, but it was cancelled after one season. A decade later, the successful Fox series 21 Jump Street used the same plot, with different youthful-looking police officers infiltrating a high school.
Cassidy later stated he was broke by the 1980s, despite being successful and highly paid. In 1985, music success continued with the Arista release of the single “The Last Kiss” (number six in the United Kingdom), with backing vocals by George Michael, which was included on the album Romance. These went gold in Europe and Australia, and Cassidy supported them with a sellout tour of the United Kingdom, which resulted in the Greatest Hits Live compilation of 1986. Michael cited Cassidy as a major career influence and interviewed Cassidy for David Litchfield’s Ritz Newspaper.
THE 80S AND 90S WERE PRIMARILY SHOW ORIENTED
Cassidy returned to the American top 40 with his 1990 single “Lyin’ to Myself”, released on Enigma Records. In 1998, he had an adult contemporary music hit with “No Bridge I Wouldn’t Cross” from his album Old Trick New Dog.
In concert performances in 1990, Cassidy hired his recalcitrant TV brother Danny Bonaduce as his warm-up act. In 1995, he hosted the VH1 show 8-Track Flashback, which ran until 1998. In 1996, he replaced Michael Crawford in the Las Vegas show EFX, rewriting it into one of the Strip’s favorite shows, although Cassidy was forced to resign after he injured his foot during a performance. He also created The Rat Pack is Back, in which he made guest appearances as Bobby Darin.
In 2000, Cassidy wrote and appeared in the Las Vegas show At the Copa with Sheena Easton, as both the young and old versions of the lead character, Johnny Flamingo. His 2001 album Then and Now went platinum internationally and returned Cassidy to the top five of the UK album charts for the first time since 1974. In 2005, Cassidy played the manager of Aaron Carter’s character in the film Popstar. He co-starred alongside his brother Patrick in a 2009 ABC Family short-lived comedy series titled Ruby & The Rockits, a show created by brother Shaun.
In 2008, Cassidy publicly admitted he had an alcohol problem. He was arrested a handful of times in the next several years for driving under the influence On February 20, 2017, Cassidy announced that he was living with dementia. He retired from performing in early 2017 when the condition became noticeable during a performance in which he forgot lyrics and otherwise struggled.
On November 18, 2017, it was announced that Cassidy had been hospitalized suffering from liver and kidney failure, and was critically ill in a medically induced coma. He came out of the coma two days later, remaining in critical but stable condition. Doctors hoped to keep Cassidy stable until a liver became available for transplant, but he died of liver failure on November 21, 2017, aged 67. According to his daughter Katie, his last words were “So much wasted time”.
UPDATE: In June 2018 a biographical documentary revealed that Cassidy in reality only used dementia as a cover up for the fact that alcohol poisoning led to his ultimate demise.
Late in 2017, grappling with the onset of dementia he headed into the studio to record a tribute to his father, Jack Cassidy, David invited a documentary film crew to chronicle the journey. During production David fell gravely and unexpectedly ill and it was during this time, he revealed to producers that his struggle with alcoholism had continued up through the recording session, and that his doctors had concluded that alcohol poisoning had likely been the chief cause of his tragic health decline, including his dementia. He would pass away a few weeks later. The two-hour, ‘Biography’ special David Cassidy: The Last Session premiered on Monday, June 11, 2018 on A&E.